The Farmland Scheme: feeding Jersey’s birds this winter

North coast sunflowers 2013. Photo by Cris SellaresConservation fields yield seed-rich crops for our farmland birds

By Cris Sellarés

You may remember announcement of our trial scheme to help farmland birds through the winter when it was launched last spring with the help of two private sponsors. Local farmers were supplied with a bird conservation seed mix to be planted into potato fields. The crops, similar to those used in the conservation fields that the National Trust for Jersey has at Le Don Hodges, near Sorel, were planted in clusters of fields across the north coast, after the Jersey Royals had been harvested.

Many local farmers and landowners kindly agreed to try these crops for a few months, so that they would provide our farmland birds with a source of food during the Goldfinches, chaffinches and linnets perch on the sunflowers to take their seeds. Photo by Cris Sellarescoldest months of the year. As soon as the crops were planted we started monitoring their growth every fortnight and documenting their development.

These conservation crops are composed of a rich variety of plants, especially chosen to produce large amounts of protein and fat-rich seeds, such as buckwheat, mustard, quinoa, chicory, sunflower, millet, gold-of-pleasure, triticale, spring wheat and phacelia, which is very good for insects too.

Such has been the success of some of these conservation fields that members of the Botany Section of the Societé Jersiaise have expressed their interest in the crops Anne Haden inspecting the crops. Photo by Cris Sellaresand shared her extensive knowledge on each plant’s history in Jersey and it’s importance for the ecosystem.

Some species in particular, such as gold-of-pleasure Camelina sativa or wheat, have all but disappeared from our landscape over the last few decades and it is exciting to find them again amongst our fields. Sadly, the varieties planted are commercial ones, produced and chosen for their value to the birds during winter, and are not likely to self-spread or go wild anytime soon, at least not before the fields are ploughed at the end of the winter to make way for next year’s crop of Jersey Royals.