Read more

Long-term farmland study monitoring the effects of environmental stewardship on breeding bird populations

Blackmoor Farm is classified as high value for farmland birds by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

This is due to its small field sizes, the large number of ancient hedgerows and numerous woods coupled with areas of marshland. All the land at the farm is in various agri-environment schemes.

One block of land at Blackmoor Farm is the subject of a long-term SBS study. Yearly bird counts have been carried out at this location since the land was entered into agri-environment schemes in 2002.

Using BTO’s Common Birds Census methodology, every year, eight surveys are carried out weekly during April and May.

Hedgerows and paths on the farm are walked, and singing birds, pairs, and those apparently on territory, are noted and their locations plotted on maps on each occasion.

The research plot has witnessed a 30% decline in breeding territories in the period 2006-2016. 

This decline is in line with national statistics and reinforces the opinion of many ecologists (see references below) that agri-environment schemes are not delivering on increasing farmland bird populations.

Our study shows that further research is needed to understand current inadequacies in habitat quality and/or quantity, and identify workable solutions to enable the recovery of farmland bird populations.

The latest Blackmoor Farm report is available here.

References
Vickery, J. A., Bradbury, R. B., Henderson, I. G., Eaton, M. A., & Grice, P. V. (2004). The role of agri-environment schemes and farm management practices in reversing the decline of farmland birds in England. Biological conservation, 119(1), 19-39. Available online.