Winter is coming and …..and so are the birds!

Young goldfinch. Photo by Tony WrightBy Cris Sellarés

Note details of forthcoming Birds On The Edge walks below.

It’s that time of the year again, when suddenly it seems the summer went by too fast and the cold and the rain arrived too soon. But here at Birds On The Edge we like to be prepared, which is why we started planning this winter’s bird crops back in December 2014.

Once again Birds On The Edge and a dozen of our farmer friends got together to discuss where the so-called ‘winter bird crops’ would be planted, with sites, crops and timing with everybody’s approval. The seed was provided by Birds On The Edge and most of the fields were planted between May and July, slowly growing to form the mixture of flowers and other plants that have started to become a familiar landmark in Jersey.

We hope that you have recognized our crops as you drive by or go for a stroll; those large sunflowers and purple phacelia are not easy to miss, but if you look closely you’ll also notice mustard, barley, millet and quinoa amongst others – this mixture will feed the widest range of birds with different beak shapes and sizes. When in full bloom the crops indeed look spectacular, and feed hundreds of bees, butterflies and beetles, but it is now, when they are dried up, looking dull and brown, that they are most appetizing for the birds, for now the seeds have matured and are ready to be eaten. These crops are particularly aimed to help farmland birds make it through the winter, which is the time of the year in which they are most vulnerable. It has been shown that the decline of birds associated with farmland seen across Europe and in the UK is caused by the lack of food available in modern farming habitats, with less stubble fields, weeds and spilt cereals. These crops help birds like linnet, meadow pipit, skylark, reed bunting, cirl bunting, brambling, stonechat, and even chaffinch and greenfinch, to survive the coldest months until the spring, when insects and other invertebrates become more abundant.

The winter bird crops have also become more prominent as the scheme has grown from 14 fields at five sites in 2013 to this year’s 47 fields at 12 different sites across the Island. Some of the fields are ‘out in the sticks’ and quite difficult to find, whilst others are near footpaths or areas with public access; in those we have placed signs encouraging walkers to enjoy the birds without disturbing them from feeding.

Winter is coming field sign. Birds On The Edge

The success of these crops has also increased each year, with 74% more farmland birds per hectare planted out and as much as a 414% increase at the best performing site. New species are often found on the crops, with serin, little bunting and Dartford warbler seen at the crops last winter, and Cetti’s warbler added to our list at one of the sites already this autumn.

We have been lucky to receive generous donations and grants to plants the crops every year. The birds are enjoying this winter’s crops thanks to a private donation from a local ornithologist, whilst the monitoring work will be carried out with grants from the Co-Operative Society Eco-Fund and the Howard Davis Farm Trust. And, we already have good news for next year’s crops, as Jersey’s Action For Wildlife have kindly offered to cover half of next year’s expenses.

If you would like to see the crops and learn a bit more about them come join us this month at one of our Birds On The Edge walks:

Saturday 7th November at Sorel. 10am, meeting at Devil’s Hole car park

Sunday 15th November at St Ouen’s Pond. 2.30pm, meeting at Kempt Tower car park.

6 thoughts on “Winter is coming and …..and so are the birds!

  1. It is fantastic to hear about your winter bird crops and how successful they are being.

  2. This is a great initiative that really helps a lot of farmland birds through winter when seed food would otherwise be in very short supply or absent for them. Well done to participant Jersey farmers and Birds on the Edge.