Monday, 21 January 2013

Supplementary Feeding - Three weeks on

If ever conditions were sent to test out supplementary feeding of farmland birds, we have had them this last week. Snow and frost, with temperatures ranging from 3  to minus 4 degrees Celsius, has painted a wintry landscape. Whilst there is some picturesque scenery, it brings a multitude of problems for farmland birds. Shelter, warmth and food for starters, without keeping an eye out for the sparrowhawk or prowling village cats.

Teasels in Wild Bird Covers

Our HLS mix contains 65% wheat and oilseed rape, to which we have added oats, linseed, canary seed, millet and black sunflowers. Some is fed by hoppers and the rest, keeper James Watchorn is scattering around the farm tracks.

 Hopper with Pan feeder underneath and Manola on top

The Loddington 'Big Bird Feeder'

The results have been instantaneous in fields near the buildings with chaffinch, blackbird, house sparrow, collared dove and robins being instantly recognisable. Although these are not the birds we are particularly targeting at Loddington, they are no doubt benefiting from some extra food.

More shy and difficult to spot are our target birds, yellowhammers, reed buntings, tree sparrows and skylarks.  Linnets are foraging in the remaining linseed and will hopefully make use of the extra feed soon.

There are a couple of observations to share; the first is there are some less welcome visitors, namely crows, jackdaws and wood pigeons. No solution for this problem when scattering grain but we may need to put some wire mesh around hoppers if they start congregating in large numbers.

Secondly there are some areas of the farm where historically small flocks of birds have been seen where you don't expect them. Some in open expanses of farmland with little wild bird cover - but on closer investigation there is a thick hedge and a bramble thicket. Some chaffinches and yellowhammers particularly like it near the farm yard where spilt grain and tailings provide easy pickings. We didn't expect to see them marauding up and down a beetle bank, once again on open farmland.

Whilst there are some real songbird experts at Loddington, as the farm manager I have a lot to learn and am searching for some better binoculars!!

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