Britain's farmland birds have suffered alarming declines over the last twenty-five years with some species having become locally extinct and many others considered threatened. It would appear that their decrease in numbers coincides with a period of rapid intensification in farming in the mid-1970s, and they have continued to steadily drop in numbers ever since. Another reason for these declines is lack of food during winter which causes high levels of mortality.
At the Wildlife Trust’s Llangloffan Fen nature reserve there is 7 acre of semi-improved grassland that is currently grazed by cattle and has opportunities for better habitat management. Through discussions with the Pembrokeshire Bird Group and other conservation organisations, the lack of winter sources of seed for birds is a real concern in this high pastureland environment.
To help sustain and aid the recovery of bird species over winter months in this area, the Wildlife Trust is looking to sow a 2-acre area of the grassland as a winter seed crop. A ‘BumbleBird’ seed mix will be sown which will provide a food resource for farmland birds during the winter months of 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. It will also provide an abundant supply of pollen and nectar rich flowers between early and late summer for a range of nectar feeding insects, including butterflies and bumblebees (other species that are in need of support).
The Wildlife Trust has been fortunate to receive funding from the Pembrokeshire Bird Group and The Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership for this project.
The kinds of species that could be served well by additional seed sources are the passerines group such as ground-feeding skylarks, finches (several species – including e.g. linnet and chaffinch) and buntings (such as reed bunting and also hopefully yellowhammer – if they are in the area). Birds like house and tree sparrows (there used to be a local breeding/wintering population near Llangloffan Fen) could hopefully also find considerable benefit from ruderal type plant seed sources.
Research suggest that a mixed farming landscape which combines stock grazing with an arable regime that maintains some over-winter stubbles will support higher numbers and a higher species diversity of field-feeding birds than landscapes dominated by autumn-sown crops or pasture. Over-winter stubbles are extremely important feeding habitats for seed-eating passerines. On set-aside land, regeneration of a vegetation cover from stubble is thus likely to yield much greater benefits for wintering seed-eating birds than sown grass covers.
Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire