By Cris Sellarés
To some of us, nothing signals the arrival of the colder months as much as the bloom of the sunflowers from the BOTE winter bird crops across the Island. Their bold colours are the sign that the fields will again produce a good amount of seeds right at the time of the year when our farmland birds need them the most.
Just as the blooming of the crops signals the goodness to come, other signs go up, the ones that we put at the edges of the fields to inform neighbours and visitors about the role of the fields and their importance to the birds.
Away from their breeding grounds, be they here in Jersey or in far corners of Europe, once the birds arrive at the crops that we’ve prepared for them, all they have to do is survive. This translates in wildlife terms to “eat and do not be eaten”, and this is why the crops play such a crucial role: the seed from the crops provides the food, the structure of the crops and nearby hedges provides cover – from predators and bad weather.
All the birds need at this point is to be left to it, so whilst more and more people love the sight of these impressive flocks by the crops, we ask everybody to enjoy the view from the boundaries and footpaths, and not scare the birds away from their food and shelter.
This winter, with over 60 fields planted at fourteen sites across the Island, is already turning out to be one of the most interesting years that we’ve had at Birds On The Edge.
In late October, when birds started to flock to the crops our resident chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches and linnets were joined not only by their continental relatives arriving from the north and the east, but also by other species of finches which we do not usually see in Jersey, in particular dozens, maybe hundreds of bramblings. In comparison, the previous winter only two representatives of this colourful finch were seen at the crops.
Bramblings will hang out with chaffinches and other finches, and have no problem following them to people’s gardens to feed, so if you start seeing chaffinches in your garden, particularly if the weather turns very cold, keep your eyes peeled for bramblings, they will be making their way there soon.
In conclusion, seeing that these hungry bramblings that found their way to Jersey and to the crops are feeding in them is a great sign that the fields are doing their job – providing sustenance for birds in need is exactly what they were planted for.
The seed for the crops was bought with a generous donation from Action For Wildlife Jersey and a grant from the Countryside Enhancement Scheme. Action For Wildlife Jersey is a local group of nature enthusiasts and experts on various fields (excuse the pun) who organise many educational walks and talks throughout the year. The many farmers, sponsors and everyone at BOTE hope that you are enjoying the winter bird crops as much as the birds already are.
Read the report from the 2016-2017 winter here