Breeding bird monitoring started in April and we have now completed the first five Common Bird Census surveys on Hope Farm. The highlight so far has to be the appearance of two pairs of lapwings, which have been displaying over our largest field planted with spring beans. We are currently keeping a close eye for any signs of breeding.
Early indications suggest that the number of territories of skylarks and yellowhammers appear to be similar to last year. Migrants including swallows, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats have arrived back slightly later than previous years but numbers have now built up.
Starling numbers reach new peak
The number of starling boxes occupied this year reached twenty four, almost double last year's figure. These include fifteen pairs of starlings, eight pairs of great *** and a pair of blue ***. The boxes have been placed in our orchard, pasture and woodland. We will be monitoring each box closely to assess how well they are faring. Elsewhere, we have breeding robins, skylarks, blackbirds, dunnocks and song thrushes, collared doves and stock doves.
With the contractor having applied the last application of fertiliser and some much-needed rain, both the wheat and the oil seed rape are developing quickly. The oil seed rape is currently in full flower giving the fields the distinctive yellow colour.
The soil was sufficiently dry by the end of February for us to plough in the spring beans, which have now germinated. This is the first time that we have included the crop intentionally into the rotation; in 2004, they were sown because the oil seed rape had failed.
In the last couple of weeks, the remaining part of the wild bird cover trial has been drilled. This trial will be comparing bird usage and seed production of WM1 (the standard wildbird seed mixture of kale, quinoa and triticale - popular with many farmers) with a specially designed 'Hope Farm' mix more suited to our farm. Seed mixtures have been kindly provided by Kings Game Cover & Conservation Crops.
Visitors around the farm
Over the last couple of months, we have hosted a number of important groups including the NFU Eastern regional board, Rural Payments Agency (RPA) staff and Rural Development Service (RDS) staff. Forthcoming events include a visit by several Members of Parliament.