Gwent Winter Bird Feeding Project (2011-12)

Gwent Winter Bird Feeding Project - Goldfinch - Bob CoyleGoldfinch - Bob Coyle

Across Britain many of our farmland bird populations have seen significant declines since the 1970s – a trend which continues for the majority of these species today. In order to help the recovery of farmland birds across Gwent, the project aimed to create a network of winter-feeding sites. A number of sites were ploughed and sown with a specific seed mix to produce a crop suitable for the bird species found in that area.

Background – Threats to Farmland Birds

There are a number of factors which have contributed towards the decline in numbers of farmland birds including:

• The conversion of pasture to arable land
• Increased use of insecticides
• Loss of hedgerows and suitable nest sites
• Increased land drainage
• A move from spring-sown to autumn-sown crops

For many species, a lack of winter food has been a significant factor in population declines. To mitigate for this loss of winter food, it is possible to create alternative feeding sites, which are sown with seed-bearing crops to provide a variety of seeds for different species over the winter months.
When left to mature, the sites provide a food source over the winter. Nest boxes erected adjacent to the sites provide additional nesting opportunities. Some of the species that are hoped to benefit from this project include:

• Common linnet
• Yellowhammer
• House sparrow
• Dunnock
• Common bullfinch
• Brambling
• Chaffinch
• Reed bunting
• Willow warbler
• Tree sparrow
• Skylark
 

About the project

The project was created by Gwent Wildlife Trust and five dedicated local authorities – Newport, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, and Torfaen. It was supported by Environment Wales and launched with funding from the Welsh Government and the Countryside Council for Wales as part of its programme of research into sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and outdoor enjoyment in rural Wales and its inshore waters.

In total there were twelve sites located within the five counties of Gwent. Sites chosen supported areas with a low value for biodiversity, for example, amenity or improved grassland. Many of these were adjacent to other habitat features such as hedgerows which enhanced the value of the site.  Whilst the majority of sites were private, public sites were chosen which would also have an educational value, for example, within school grounds and country parks.

The sites were monitored, with the help of Gwent Ornithological Society, who created a standard monitoring methodology to be used on each site. This involved volunteers monitoring transects on a monthly basis and the different species of birds using the sites were recorded. On some of the sites, bird-ringing took place which will provide information on the how birds are using these sites within the landscape.

 

What You Can Do to Help

If you or your local group have access to some vacant land, which does not already have value either as a biodiversity site or for the local community, why not create your own winter bird feeding site and contribute to the network across Gwent?

  1. In the winter, start by selecting your seed mix – there are different mixes available depending on what species you want to attract.
  2. To enhance your site prior to sowing, you could erect different types of bird boxes or create additional habitat such as hedgerows around the site.
  3. If you want to sow a perennial mix, sow in March to April or if it is a biannual mix, sow in April to May.
  4. Let the crop establish and leave to mature over the autumn and winter – monitoring any birds (or other wildlife) that visit the site.
  5. Once the site has fully matured and is not providing a source of food, it can be cut back – sites may last between one and three years depending on the seed mix that is used.
  6. For optimum benefits, re-plough and sow these sites to provide a continuous cover and source of food for the birds.

None of our work would be possible without the generous donations and membership given to us by you. To donate to future projects please call 01600 740 600, or to become a member to help support all of the work we do.

 

Downloads

FilenameFile size
Winter bird feeding leaflet - English.pdf987.98 KB
winter bird feeding leaflet - Welsh.pdf1004.17 KB