Up with the larks

A bit of sun on your face, patchy blue skies, and the sweet sound of skylarks high above… that's when you know spring has finally sprung. In spring at Sherborne, you might catch sight and sound of some beautiful and tuneful farmland birds – skylarks, yellowhammers, corn buntings and linnets. The farmers and rangers here are doing everything they can to look after them

Every May farmer Peter can be seen sowing whole fields purely for the birds. As you may know from your bird feeders, different birds can be quite fussy eaters. He grows something for each of them ­– from small millet seeds to larger ones of barley and wheat. It’s a sort of ‘pick ‘n mix’ affair.

Then every three days over winter – weather permitting – he’s out again scattering the seeds for hungry birds to feed on. And he gets through up to 4 tons of seed in just 5 months.

The results are heartwarming, and worth all the hard work. In just over 5 years the numbers of these rare farmland birds have gone up by about 80% at Sherborne.

Sherborne’s increasing numbers of farmland birds means we are getting it right – more insects to feed on in summer, seeds in winter and a safe place to nest. Farming with nature is the future.

Last year, working with the Springwatch ‘nest finders’, Anna discovered something new: ‘We knew we had breeding yellowhammers, but the nest finders have shown that they are breeding at much higher densities than we ever expected.’
 

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:

Yellowhammers

You’ll sometimes see this striking bird high on a hedgerow, singing joyfully. Its bright yellow head and underbody make it stand out from the crowd.

Corn buntings

This stout little bird is also seen sitting on a hedge, post or wire signing a song that sounds like jangling keys. Look out for them on the estate’s specially erected ‘songbird’ posts. As ground-nesting birds, they need good cover so we’ve left grassy margins in fields for them to nest in and give them more spiders and insects to feed their young on.

Skylarks

You’re likely to hear the sweet sound of this discreet little bird before you see it overhead. Unplanted, rough patches in fields are being left for skylarks to land and nest in. And

now that farmers are making more space for nature you’ll hopefully see more rare farmland birds too.

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