Birdlife on our farms

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A record 121 volunteers surveyed 6,924 hectares of farmland across 92 different sitesin the 13th RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance.

This brings the grand total surveyed across the region to an amazing 51,690 hectares of farmland since 2000.

The free surveys help farmers to identify birds of conservation concern present on their land, and the RSPB can then advise them on how to help these species and make the most of their farms for wildlife.

In East Sussex, 28 farms covering a total area of 1,908 hectares were surveyed this summer in Battle, Broad Oak, Etchingham, Hastings, Hadlow Down, Jevington, Lewes, Newhaven, Northiam, Pett, Polegate, Rye, Uckfield, Wadhurst, Wartling and Winchelsea

In the south east, over 50% of the landscape is farmland, which is of fundamental importance in providing feeding and breeding habitat for birds and other wildlife. Indeed, many species such as lapwing, skylark and yellowhammer, have become specially adapted to live on it.

Projects like the RSPB’s Volunteer and Farmer Alliance can help by working with farmers to manage their land in a way that provides birds with their three basic requirements: a safe place to nest, food in spring and summer for growing chicks, and food and shelter over the winter - the so-called ‘Big 3’.

Fay Pattinson, Volunteer and Farmer Alliance co-ordinator for the south east, said: “We’ve had such a great response of farms and volunteers taking part in the surveys this year which gives an excellent overview of what wildlife is present on our farmland across the south east.

“Farmers really value the information and once they know which birds they have on their land and where, we can advise them on how to manage their land appropriately with these species in mind.

“We couldn’t do it without the help of an enthusiastic and committed team of volunteers who go out in the early mornings to record the wildlife they see.”

Maps produced from the surveys show where priority species are on the farm so farmers can put in place the appropriate conservation measures such as leaving grassy crop margins for nesting corn bunting, uncropped, cultivated strips to provide seed food for turtle dove, and plots of wild bird seed mix to provide overwinter seed food for tree sparrow.

The most common birds recorded this year were blackbird and chaffinch, found on 99% of farms. In second place was the blue tit, present on 95% of holdings, while robin, swallow and wood pigeon were in joint third on 93% of farms this year.

Some of the more unusual sightings included white stork in East Sussex.