Helping farm birds survive

Around Sherborne you can hear the sound of some of our most beautiful and melodic birds, living on the farm land. They are doing well at Sherborne despite a rapid decline seen in most of the country caused by changes in traditional farming techniques and habitat loss.

Skylark populations have more than halved since the 1980s and Linnets and Corn Buntings have unfortunately found a place on the red list of endangered birds.

Bucking this trend is Sherborne Park Estate, which has shown how sustainable farming can help welcome these traditional birds back to our farmland – thanks to the hard work of the farmers.

Friendly farming
There are places on the estate where places for the birds to nest and breed have been created – but winter is a critical time when food is short.

Some farmers qualify for higher level stewardship schemes to help provide feed for farm birds. Peter Summers regularly goes out to put seed out for the birds and expects to use four tons of seed from December to April, in addition to having some land planted up with crop just for the birds to feed on.

Different seeds whether millet, barley or wheat are preferred by different birds.

As a result of his work and that of other around Sherborne, endangered species, such as the Corn Bunting, Skylark and Lapwing are beginning to make a comeback.

Video

Saving farmland birds on Sherborne Park Estate

At Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire, we aren't just sowing seeds for our own crops. Peter, one of our farmers, shows us how he's helping numbers of farmland birds to soar.

What to look out for:

Yellowhammer
This songful bird can often be seen perched upon a hedgerow, singing its joyful melodies. Its bright yellow head and underbody makes it stand out from the crowd and will surely brighten up any countryside walk.

Corn Bunting
This stout, dumpy bird is often found perched on a hedge, post or wire and has characteristic dangling legs as it flies. Look out for them on the estate’s designated ‘songbird’ posts.
They love open farmland in the summer months, but find refuge in winter by snuggling up in stubbles, weedy fields and cattle yards. As ground-nesting birds, they rely on grass cover. On the Estate, designated grassy margins, which also provide food in the form of spiders and insects, have encouraged the Corn Buntings back.

Skylark
Prepare to be serenaded by the Skylark’s beautiful song. You’ll likely catch this discreet bird whilst it chimes as it flies.

Intensive grassland farming and the use of pesticides has caused their drastic decline, as they don’t have enough food to survive. 

But now farmers are making space for nature - leaving unplanted patches for Skylarks to land and nest. As a result, Skylarks have been filling the skies once more with their sweet music.

Strong numbers
The strong numbers of farmland birds are good indicators of the general environmental health on Sherborne Park Estate, as it shows the bird’s needs of insects in summer, seeds in winter and a safe area to nest are being met. 

Thanks to sensitive farming, these winged wonders are once again beginning to grace both land and sky with their presence. 
 

" Many of our farmland birds are in crisis, and the government needs to come good on its recent promises for the environment in order to turn the tide. Populations have declined by more than 50% since 1970, while pressures from climate change, pollution and a lack of suitable habitats continue to take their toll."
- Patrick Begg, Outdoors and Natural Resources Director