Restoring farmland ponds attracts more farmland birds

From Rare Bird Alert

Less than 70 years ago, ponds were a common feature of the farmland landscape, and were routinely managed just like hedgerows. Since the 1950s, many ponds have been filled in to reclaim more land for farming; however, a large number have been left unmanaged, meaning they have become overgrown with trees and bushes, making them dark and uninhabitable to many species.

Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has been working with the Natural History Museum and University College London on research that shows reinstating traditional pond management methods, of tree and mud removal, can benefit not only pond species, but also farmland birds.

Ponds restored by the Norfolk Ponds Project, were compared to neighbouring unmanaged and overgrown ponds; restored ponds contained twice as many bird species and almost three times as many birds, as the overgrown ponds.

Bird species at the restored ponds included skylark, linnet, yellowhammer and starling, all species that are Red Listed in the UK because they have declined drastically in recent years.

There were 95 sightings of these four species in and around the restored ponds, which compared to just two sightings of yellowhammer and none of skylark, starling or linnet at the unrestored ponds.

The total number of birds visiting was also greater at restored ponds with almost three times as many birds attracted to the restored ponds. This was shown to be linked to the abundant insect food resources emerging from restored ponds.

According to lead researcher, Jonathan Lewis-Phillips of UCL’s Pond Restoration Research Group:

“Restored ponds are teeming with insects, and because different ponds have insect peaks on different days, birds can move from pond to pond, and get the food that they need. A network of high-quality ponds is, therefore, brilliant for birds in the breeding season.”

With a network of restored ponds across the landscape, birds were able to move between insect emergence events, providing an ongoing insect food resource during the breeding season.

The research comes at a time when farmland birds are under huge threat, having declined by 55 per cent in the last 50 years, largely due to changes in agricultural management to increase food production, according to the recent State of Nature 2019 report.

As well as providing a beneficial habitat for woodland birds, farmland ponds also provide an important landscape feature, and act as stepping-stones for other wildlife including frogs and dragonflies.

Despite their importance, according to a report published by the RSPB, WWF and the Wildlife Trusts, there are no plans to protect them included in the UK’s new Agriculture Bill.

“Our research shows how important it is to restore and manage ponds in farmland. Here in Gloucestershire, preliminary evidence suggests we have lost around two-thirds of our farmland ponds since 1900. That’s why we have been working with Farming & Wildlife Advisory group (FWAG SouthWest) and local farmers to restore a number of ponds across different farms on the Severn Vale.”

“Even following long periods of dormancy, overgrown farmland ponds can quickly come back to life, with plants, amphibians and insects starting to colonise them in a matter of months. That is why this research could be an important pointer of where the UK’s environmental and agricultural policy should focus post Brexit.”

Carl Sayer of University College London Pond Restoration Group said: “The research on birds was inspired by Norfolk farmer Richard Waddingham. His constant belief has always been that farming and wildlife can co-exist and with wildlife declining at an alarming rate, at no time in history do we need to make this work more than now. Restoring farmland ponds is clearly part of a positive way forward.”

 

February volunteer activity postponed

JCV February volunteer activity at Sorel

Sunday 9th task postponed until 23rd February.

Due to the prospect of storm Ciara hitting on Sunday, we have decided to postpone the event until Sunday 23rd February at the same time of 10.15am for a 10.30am start.

We apologise for any disappointment, but the Met Office has advised that they are expecting gusts of 60mph and driving rain, which is not suitable conditions for the task and does pose issues regarding safety.

Thanks for your understanding and see you on 23rd February.

The NTJ Lands Team

Wild About Jersey

Natural Environment

February volunteer activity

Sunday 9th February 2020 –– Mourier Valley, St John 10:30-13.00

From Jersey Conservation Volunteers

Task This Sunday will be first opportunity for the JCV to get involved with the exciting Mourier Valley re-wilding project. Help the National Trust for Jersey and Jersey Trees for Life fulfil their most ambitious tree planting scheme ever, planting over 6,000 trees over three years. All plants and materials have been generously sponsored by Jersey Electricity and Jersey Water.

If you have any questions, or if you wish to be added to the Jersey Conservation Volunteers email list, please contact either Julia Clively (tel: 441600; j.clively@gov.je) or Jon Parkes (tel: 483193; jon.parkes@nationaltrust.je).

The site Jersey Phone Directory Map 3, R2 and Google Maps here

Parking There is car parking at Sorel Point, at the top car park or down by the Point.

Meet at the Sorel Point – top public car park at 10am to allow us to walk over to the site and start work for 10.30am. We will finish for 1pm.

Tools needed Depending on turnout, we may be short on spades, so please bring spades and gloves if you have any.

Clothing needed Please dress for the weather and bear in mind how exposed the site is on the North Coast. 

Children All are welcome, young or old although we do ask that volunteers under 16 years of age are directly supervised by a parent or guardian.

Refreshments Kim will be setting up her pop-up cafe to treat you all when work finishes at about 12.30.

See you there!

Hedge Fund Project 2019/20

The National Trust for Jersey are looking to appoint a volunteer planter to assist in the planting of bare root hedging and tree whips (45-60 cm) on designated field boundaries working eastwards between the Zoo and Rozel Manor/Fliquet.

  • Once planted the whips will be fitted with spiral guards or trees shelters as appropriate
  • The majority of the 5,000 holes to plant the whips have been dug to allow them to be slot planted. Spiral protection has to be fitted to a lot of the hedging that has already been planted and this type of work is less arduous and would suit those who are not so physically strong
  • There is the potential of work in the summer as well, maintaining the planting in order to control competing vegetation.

The appointee will be responsible to Conrad Evans – Project Coordinator or National Trust Supervisor in his absence. The appointee will need to be:

Responsible for 

  • Own transport to site and meeting at designated working site which will vary as progress is made
  • You will need to wear appropriate clothing, gloves and footwear and provide food and drink for your own welfare
  • Looking after the tools, plants and materials that will be provided
  • Complying with the risk assessment that will be given to all volunteers.

Key responsibilities 

  • Working with minimal supervision from time to time taking care of your own health and safety in line with the likely working conditions to be expected
  • Be respectful of the land, environment and any livestock encountered
  • Deal politely with any public interest
  • To have the ability to work as part of a team to a high standard.

Experience required

  • Being physically fit and able is a vital condition of the task
  • Basic gardening, horticulture or labouring
  • Ability to work under own initiative having been given initial instruction.

 Hours 

  • Monday to Friday between 0830 and 1530
  • Minimum of 4 hours per session to ensure efficiency and a reasonable level of production.

Contact and any necessary medical details will be required but ALL information held with be kept in the strictest confidence.

If you are interested please contact Conrad Evans

Tel: 07797 903895 / email: Conrad.Evans@nationaltrust.je

The National Trust for Jersey, The Elms, La Chève Rue, St Mary JE3 3EN

Banque, hedgerow and tree management. Branchage guidelines updated

By Cassie Horton with Dru Burdon and Dom Wormell

A meeting was held last August last year at the request of Dru Burdon from the Jersey Hedgehog Preservation Group as she was so frustrated and upset at the number of hedgehogs coming in with severe injuries. That meeting was attended by about 20 individuals/environmental organisations together with the Natural Environment Department, the Comité des Connétables and the Jersey Farmers’ Union to revise the branchage practice for the benefit of the Island’s fauna and flora. It was proposed that a small committee be formed to identify how we could improve the situation and myself together with Bob Tompkins, Neil Singleton, Alli Caldeira, Dru Burdon, Rose Anne Mitchell and Chris Perkins put our hands up! We are by no means experts in land management but we have endeavoured to seek advice and input from those in the know. Over recent months we have rewritten the branchage guidelines and hope that the revised version will be easier to understand with clear examples of photos and a diagram of best practice.

A training session was organised on 30 May and hosted by Peter le Maistre, the President of the Jersey Farmers’ Union attended by about 50 farmers and contractors, representatives of environmental organisations and John Pinel, Principal Ecologist and Assistant Director of the Natural Environment Department. It was a very successful event with honest and constructive dialogue between all concerned. One of the farmers stated that this was the first time environmentalists and farmers had come together to discuss these issues and this process should continue as it had been incredibly helpful and positive. He also suggested that results of wildlife monitoring (as a result of the new branchage regime) should be reported back to the farmers.

Peter Le Maistre and Ian Le Brun (Jersey Royal Potato Company) had earlier that week cut three examples of branchaging to demonstrate to those present and provide an opportunity for discussion and a compromise was agreed whereby the lower part of the banque is cut to a minimum height of 10cm but the top is left uncut, as this will give wildlife a chance of survival but still adhere to the branchage law. Revised guidelines on best practice for hedgerow, tree and banque (bank) management have now been agreed and will be published by Natural Environment.

Alastair Christie, the Asian Hornet Coordinator also gave a presentation on signs to look out for when undertaking the branchage process and safe working practices.

Our farmers have a symbiotic relationship with the landscape and the large majority of them (particularly those present at the meeting) consider themselves every bit as much an environmentalist. The planting of trees and hedgerows by farmers over the years has contributed to the health of our countryside and they are supportive of improving the biodiversity of our banques and hedgerows.

The Branchage Law dates back to 1914 when the aim was to improve the safety for road users and pedestrians. This is still the case today, however, a misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the law has been allowed to happen and this idea of a ‘neat and tidy’ landscape needs to be done away with. The law is very specific and, as long as a height of 3.7 metres above roads and 2.4 metres above footpaths is adhered to, then the Connétables are happy with this. The banques do not need to be cut down to the bare soil and, as long as vegetation does not overhang the road/footpaths, then the tops can be left uncut. This will allow the desired vegetation to seed but, more importantly, the protection of animals such as hedgehogs, lizards, slow worms and fledgling birds.

Work needs to continue in making private landowners and landlords aware of the new guidelines. Some tenant farmers have been told they risk having fields taken away from them if they don’t make everything ‘neat and tidy’ and it is disheartening when they adhere to the LEAF (Linking Environment & Farming) guidelines and only cut hedges every two years to then find that neighbours cut everything to the bare soil. John Pinel advised that there is legislation in place to prevent the removal of hedges and he offered support to the farmers in generating positive discussions with landowners regarding best working practices.

One of the issues mentioned at an earlier discussion was that machine operators often suffer abuse from motorists when holding up the traffic and also from home owners if the operators go out early in the morning to avoid the motorists. We sought advice from the Connétables who were present at the meeting and Len Norman advised that the Connétables were willing to close the roads to enable the branchage to be undertaken safely. It’s not easy operating machinery, trying to check where the flail is along the banque and at the same time looking out for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists so, if the level of stress can be reduced, that can only be a good thing.

I was delighted with the outcome of the meeting and, having been involved in this campaign, I have a much deeper understanding and respect for the work that our farmers do.

We have produced two sets of guidelines – a condensed version (which could be kept in the cab of a vehicle to refer to – download this version here) and the more comprehensive version which is still to be formalised by the Natural Environment Department with photos and diagrams (download the draft of this here). Polish and Portuguese versions of the condensed report are available – please check relevant websites or contact Birds On The Edge.

The intention is to distribute these guidelines to private contractors and have them available on Parish and Government of Jersey websites for Island wide use.

Download:

Banque, hedgerow and tree management guidelines on best practice. Draft May 2019

Banque, hedgerow and tree management guidelines on best practice. Condensed version.- May 2019

 

 

A brambling winter at the bird crops

Romano2By 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.

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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.

Chaffinch. Photo by Romano da Costa

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.

Brambling12wm

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

Plémont – how to create species rich grassland…. or heathland

Plemont headlandBy Jon Parkes 

July 2016 saw the official opening of Plémont Headland and for the first time in over 140 years (before the original “Plémont Hotel” was built in 1874) the public have been free to enjoy this special place.

Creating and protecting “green space” for people has been at the heart of the Plémont debate and acquisition and indeed forms a very important part of the National Trust for Jersey’s ethos. But ensuring that nature has a home is also a vital component of what we do and there has never been a time when action has been so desperately needed.

In 2015 The States Department of the Environment published the results of the Jersey Butterfly Monitoring Scheme after 10 years of collecting data across 38 sites by a team of dedicated volunteers. The results suggest that whilst Jersey’s butterflies might be faring slightly better to those in the UK, the surveyed population has still decreased by 14%, (compared to 29% in the UK). Interestingly Jersey’s butterfly population is doing best in semi-natural sites as opposed to those in agricultural or urban habitats where they are declining. In fact the green hairstreak is one species that is doing particularly well and has been recorded as increasing by 458% in the last 10 years as opposed to suffering a 40% decrease in the UK. This could be seen as a strong indication of the importance of managed semi-natural sites such as Plémont.

Ponds

The creation of two ponds at Plémont was eagerly anticipated by the local toad and palmate newt population, who were literally queuing up to jump in upon their completion. For two consecutive years the Eastern Pond has been used by both species to breed. This year, the larger Western Pond has seen a whole new generation of toadlets emerge after metamorphosing from their tadpole stage.

Common toad. Photo by Kristian Bell

Despite the amphibian successes, both ponds have experienced teething problems and most noticeably the appearance of the lime-green algal blooms. Spirogyra is a family of around 400 species of filamentous algae that is commonly found in freshwater and is indicative of clean water that has high concentrations of phosphates and nitrates. It can be easily removed but doing so would jeopardise any invertebrate life or tadpoles that would become encapsulated amongst the tiny strands of algae.

Plemont pond

Another issue the ponds face is loss of water through evaporation, due to their exposed position to the sun, wind and transpiration – the evaporation of water from plant leaves. Whilst there is means to top up the water levels from a well, this would mean the introduction of more nutrients which would cause more algae. The proposed solution is to encourage more oxygenating plants and remove the algae once the toads have emerged from the water, decreasing the level of nutrients over time. Equilibrium will be reached, the water quality will improve and we will have to accept that the water levels will drop in the summer months. As long as there is water during the amphibians’ breeding period (February-June) the pond is serving its purpose and will act much like many natural ponds without constant water inflow.

Reseda luteola Weld R

Grassland

Back in the spring of 2015 you may remember the huge mounds of sandy soil which were spread over the footprint of the demolished buildings. Over 7,000 tonnes of sandy soil, sourced from Les Quennevais and recycled soil from La Collette formed the base of what we now refer to as the restoration area. To create a heathland such as Les Landes we would need a free draining sandy soil with a low pH (pH 5-6 ideally) and low nutrient levels. It is easier to maintain a species-rich wild flower habitat when there are fewer nutrients in the soil. If you add fertiliser (or compost or a lot of manure) to the soil, a small number of competitive plants are able to rapidly exploit these extra nutrients. These species then tend to become dominant and other plants are less able to compete for space. Most plants rely on a relationship with fungi and soil micro-organisms in order to grow. Fertilisers have a negative impact on these organisms making it more difficult for the flowers to grow.  With very little choice available, in the quantities we would need, a mixture of sandy soil, sourced from Les Quennevais and recycled sand from La Collette was chosen. Although the average pH was around 8.5, the particularly low nutrient status would mean far less of a burden when it would come to managing the developing vegetation.

Plemont headland 5

Snow bunting, Plemont, November 2017. Photo by Romano da Costa

This June our Conservation Officer, Jon Rault, assisted by the very knowledgeable local botanist Anne Haden, undertook a vegetation survey to assess how things have developed and have some interesting results. Around 50 plant species have so far been recorded including: wild carrot, toad rush, birds-foot-trefoil and small-flowered catchfly. Maritime Duneland plants such as fragrant evening-primrose, sea beet and sea radish have appeared, but this isn’t so surprising considering the origins of the soil, Les Quennevais of course being built on Dunes. Some more invasive plants such as the non-native cape cudweed and spotted medick which may need some management have become quite well established and some more exotic species including echium and Californian poppy have appeared as likely remnants of the holiday camp era.

Lotus corniculatis Common Bird's-foot-trefoil

Oneothera sricta. Fragrant Evening Primrose.Resent soil tests have confirmed that pH levels are still rather alkaline at between pH 8.5 and 8.9 and this is unlikely to change without any intervention due to the amount of concrete based material that must be underneath the layer of imported calcareous sand. Perhaps more encouraging is the nutrient status results from the same soil samples. For example, the amount of available phosphorus is currently between 8.8 and 25.8 mg/l with a “P index” of 0-3, compared to a recently tested former agricultural field which showed levels of available phosphorus at between 66.2 and 153.4mg/l giving a “P index” of between 4 and 7.

Beta vulgaris subsp maritima Sea Beet.Our current situation, with the encouraging results of vegetation surveys, indicates that the soil choice was a good one. Whilst our soil pH is much higher than we would have ideally liked, this is something that can be changed by adding sulphur, an expensive but affective way of raising acidity. As the results from the former agricultural field’s shows, high soil fertility is much more of a problem with no “magic cure”.

The decision on whether to try to acidify our soil in the effort to meet our original vision of creating a heathland is not one that needs to be made straight away and whilst wildlife and people are clearly making good use of the site, we have already achieved much of what we wanted to do.

For the meanwhile, the addition of calcareous grassland to our north coast may be something of an oddity but this may also be its strength and reason to remain as such. A new and interesting patch adding heterogeneity to the landscape is something that’s often lacking.

Further decisions will be required but there will be a need to balance and create opportunities for nature as well as public access and enjoyment.

This piece was originally published in the National Trust for Jersey magazine Discover and is reprinted here with kind permission

Choughs at Sorel Point May 2017. Photo by Mark Sleep

 

Grazing returns to L’Ancresse Common

From La Société Conservation Herd

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The (Guernsey) Conservation Herd have been invited to graze L’Ancresse Common and were moved to the common on Sunday 2nd April.

La Société Conservation Herd were invited to graze the Common by Vale Commons Council as a trial to re-introduce grazing. This initiative has been set up under its new management regime which aims to protect the area as an important recreational and cultural site whilst also enhancing the internationally important grasslands.

The Conservation Herd at Port Soif, Guernsey. Photo by Helen Young

Background

L’Ancresse Common was historically grazed by inhabitants of Braye du Valle, who have rights to graze their animals there. As fewer households kept their own cows and it became less economically viable for dairy farms to graze theirs on the common, the number of grazing animals there reduced. Today, no inhabitants exercise their right to graze.

This loss of grazing has had a significant impact on the ecology of the common – the grassland has become tall and rank and areas have become established by gorse and brambles. The delicate wildflowers which require short, grazed grassland no longer have access to light and so are being lost from the common. This, in turn, leads to a loss of the insects, small mammals, bats and birds which rely on them.

The Conservation Herd on L'Ancresse Common. Photo by Andrew Guille

La Société Conservation Herd

The Conservation Herd is a herd of eight Guernsey steers whose job is to manage grasslands to protect and enhance their diversity. La Société was approached by VCC to graze the common for several weeks, starting from April 2nd. This initiative is a trial of a longer-termed project which aims to see more grazing animals return to the common.

Julia Henney, the Conservation Herd’s manager, said, “We were delighted to be approached by VCC and asked to graze L’Ancresse Common. It is a vitally important site for Guernsey’s biodiversity and we hope that re-introducing grazing will help preserve it for many years to come. We have experience grazing common land, with the introduction of Operation Skylark at Port Soif Common. The local community offered so much support and the herd were well received and accepted onto Port Soif Common and we hope to replicate this success at L’Ancresse.”

The Conservation Herd on L'Ancresse Common. Photo by Chris SimsPeter Blake, President of the Vales Commons Council  said “Myself and my committee wish you and the herd a great stay on the Common and hope that this will encourage more of the inhabitants to do the same.”

The Conservation Herd will be grazing within electric fencing for several weeks around The Doyle area and will be checked daily by the team which cares for them. La Société and the Vale Commons Council would welcome assistance from regular dog walkers and people who walk or exercise around L’Ancresse. ‘Watchers’ are sought to keep an eye on the cattle when they’re passing and report any problems or concerns to the Conservation Herd team.

Temporary signs are placed around the site to explain the project and give information on who to contact in the event of an emergency.

Anyone who would like more information on the Conservation Herd is welcome to contact Julia Henney at conservationherd@societe.org.gg and visit our online map here to track where they are grazing.

The Conservation Herd on L'Ancresse Common. Photo by Andrew Guille

 

Winter bird crops feeding more threatened birds every year

photo-by-romano-da-costa-1By Cris Sellarés

The Winter Bird Crops are going from strength to strength looking at the way the birds are rushing to get to them. Results from last winter’s surveys at the crops show an increase in bird numbers of almost 40% in density (birds per hectare), even when the number of fields and area planted did not increase from the previous year. Most encouragingly, the vast majority of birds feeding at the crops were the targeted species: farmland birds such as chaffinch, linnet, reed bunting, meadow pipit, goldfinch and starling.

The winter bird crops are crucial to keep hundreds of birds fed and alive throughout the winter, when there is not much food to be found in the fields or hedges. Many of the species benefiting from them are threatened right across their British and European ranges, and include local birds and migrants who come to spend winter here.

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You can download and read the full report 2015-16 Winter bird crops report here. Here are the highlights:

  • photo-by-romano-da-costa-4Farmland birds are in decline across Europe, the UK and Jersey, with some species having become locally extinct and many others considered threatened. One of main reasons of these declines is lack of food during winter which causes high levels of mortality. The so-called ‘Winter Bird Crops’ provide a source of food at this critical time, increasing the chances of survival of many threatened birds both local and migrants
  • Birds On The Edge works with Jersey’s potato farmers to provide winter bird crops for the longest time possible. A variety of crops are planted with staggered management regimes, ensuring that the crops do not disappear at once when the fields are planted with potatoes. The crops provide seeds and grains of various sizes, energy and nutritional values
  • In 2015 a total of 47 fields were planted to feed farmland birds during the 2015-16 winter. The fields were found at 12 different sites, and, combined, covered a total of 33.3 hectares (163 vergées)
  • The development of the crops and bird activity was monitored throughout the winter. A total of 46,155 records of birds of 54 species were collected over sixteen surveys, of which 40,949 (88.7%) were of target species (endangered farmland birds)
  • Of the ten most abundant species found at the crops, seven were farmland (target) species: chaffinch, linnet, starling, goldfinch, greenfinch, meadow pipit and reed bunting. A total of 14 target species was recorded at the sites. The most successful site had an average of 461 target birds per hectare
  • Net numbers increased by 13,874 birds compared to 2014-15 (54% increase) and by 33,177 compared to 2013-14 (534% increase)
  • The overall density of target birds increased by 39% from the previous winter (2014-15) and by 140% compared to the winter of 2013-14
  • The seed for the bird crops was purchased and provided thanks to the generosity of a private donor. It costs approximately £3,500 to plant the winter bird crops in Jersey
  • This year’s crops, which are already feeding birds in larger numbers than ever recorded, were paid for by the local charity Action For Wildlife and by the States of Jersey’s Countryside Enhancement Scheme
  • Our research proves just invaluable the crops are for these vulnerable species and we believe that continuing this scheme is paramount for their survival. As we begin to plan for next year’s crops with the farmers, Action For Wildlife has stepped up once again and donated £1000 towards the seed for next year’s crops. This will be added to a private donation of £200 we received in the autumn, as we close in our target of £3,500.

Read the full report 2015-16 Winter bird crops report

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New hedge planted near St Ouen’s Pond to help birds

Reed bunting male. Photo by Romano da Costa.By Cris Sellarés

JTFLA recent collaboration between Jersey Trees for Life and Birds On The Edge has seen a new hedge planted at an important conservation site in St Ouen’s Bay.

The new hedge, approximately 200m long, was planted at the edge of the National Trust for Jersey land and the Site of Special Interest of St Ouen’s Pond (SSI La Mare au Seigneur). The boundary lies between the Trust’s grazed pastures east of the reedbeds, and privately farmed fields west of the Rue du Val de la Mare. The potential value of creating a hedge in this area was identified during recent habitat and wildlife surveys carried out by BOTE, as part of a larger group of actions to enhance opportunities for wild birds in the area which were recommended as a result of the surveys. Other actions that were suggested included the planting of winter bird crops and setting up farmland feeding stations.

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A few months ago the local charity Jersey Trees for Life got in contact with BOTE to find a location for a new hedge project in St Ouen’s Bay, for which they already had possible sponsors, and this location was suggested. After obtaining permissions from NTJ and other landowners, the staff of JTFL proceeded to plant a total of 606 hedging whips. The bulk of the plants was comprised mainly of hawthorn, with some blackthorn, wild plum, grey sallow and a few shrubby aspen in as well. They were planted in double and triple rows over on the top of the wide existing bank, and the hedge was completed by mid-March.

DSC_0166It is hoped that the particular placement of this hedge will connect various habitats of importance to birds, especially the reedbeds near the pond that extend to one side of the grazed area, and the arable fields on the other side of it, which most crucially are planted every year with Winter Bird Crops. Many birds have been found in these crops during winter surveys, in particular the locally extinct (as a breeding bird) reed bunting, which now only winters in Jersey with a population of Reed bunting. Photo by Mick Dryden200-400 birds, mainly in St Ouen’s Bay. These buntings roost at night in the reedbeds and travel across the Island during the day to feed on small seeds from weeds, crops and marginal vegetation at small and spread-out sites. They do not like to feed on open ground like linnets nor are tame enough to visit garden feeders, but they have found a great source of food in the Winter Bird Crops managed by BOTE, especially the ones near the pond. However, to get to these fields from the safety of the reeds they still have to cross a large expanse of open ground, namely grassland and pastures. It is hoped that this hedge will provide them with a safety corridor to use not only for travelling between the roosting and feeding areas but also with shelter from predators and adverse weather, allowing them to remain in the feeding area for longer periods at a time.

Many other birds can potentially benefit from this hedge, as it can also provide nesting habitat and a varied source of food (in the form of buds, berries and insects). Greenfinches, chaffinches, linnets, stonechats, Dartford warblers, starlings and many more are likely to benefit from this hedge and the other habitats and features that the hedge will make accessible to them. Other wildlife that will probably use it too includes green lizards, grass snakes, rodents and shrews, toads, numerous insects and other invertebrates.

The future looks good for this area, as there is already an agreement with the local farmers to plant more Winter Bird Crops in 2016 for next winter, and further good news also from Jersey Trees for Life, as they plan to extend the hedge next winter following the same boundary southwards. From our side at Bird On The Edge, we will continue to monitor the birds using the crops and the hedge, and we hope that the data collected over the next few years will reflect the improvements on this area promoted by the bird crops and the newly planted hedge, especially as it develops and reaches full maturity.

*This project has been possible thanks to a very positive collaboration between the local farmers, landowners, JTFL and the BOTE partnership.