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Romney Marsh Farmland Bird Project

Tree sparrow perching on branch

The Romney Marshes are a very important area for farmland birds, owing to the presence of key species: grey partridges, corn buntings, turtle doves, tree sparrows, yellow wagtails and lapwings. In addition, there are populations of other red-listed species, including skylarks, yellowhammers and linnets.

The Romney Marsh Farmland Bird Project offers free advice to farmers across the Marshes to encourage them to provide these farmland birds with their three basic ecological requirements, the 'Big Three':

1. Safe, in-field nesting habitat

2. Insect-rich habitat to feed chicks in summer

3. Seed-rich habitat for food over winter.

Incorporating these habitats across the farm will also benefit other wildlife including brown hares, bumblebees and wildflowers.

We have a particular interest in tree sparrows in the area, because Romney Marshes and the surrounding area are through to be the last-known breeding colony(s) found on farmland in the South East. Exact population figures and breeding areas are not fully know, so we're gathering data on their distribution.

We'd like to capitalise on the success of winter feeding and nestboxes at RSPB Dungeness by setting up feeding stations and nestboxes across the Marsh where tree sparrows are present.

Project objectives

  • To increase our farm advisory work across the Romney Marshes to benefit key farmland birds and other wildlife, using Entry Level Stewardship (ELS), Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) or Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) options as a toolkit to provide the 'Big Three.'
  • To provide free advice and support to farmers across the project area to help them create and manage these options, and integrate wildlife-friendly management into their farming business.
  • To establish current populations and the distribution of tree sparrows across Romney Marshes.
  • To erect tree sparrow nestboxes and set up winter feeding stations on at least five farms.
  • To monitor feeding stations and nestboxes (and top up feeders as necessary) with the help of a network of volunteers.
  • To colour-ring tree sparrows at known sites to enable population movement to be monitored.

Key dates so far

  • Project launched on 26 June 2012 with a farm walk near Lydd, Kent

Work planned or underway

We will continue to offer free advisory visits and tree sparrow nest boxes to farmers across the project area, and will issue project updates as work progresses.

Please contact project staff if you own or manage land across Romney Marshes and would like a free advisory visit, and/or have tree sparrows on your farm and would be willing to host a winter feeding station or nestboxes.

Tree sparrows are communal nesters, so groups of boxes need to be erected in suitable habitat like patches of dense scrub and on quiet farm buildings. Feeders are best located in areas where tree sparrows are known to congregate in the winter, provided they are accessible for refilling.

Results

June 2012:

HMP Rochester completed the construction of 50 tree sparrow nestboxes on our behalf. These boxes are now available to farmers across the Marsh with tree sparrows on their land.

Two farm sites offered to host tree sparrow nestboxes and winter feeding stations.

Who to contact

Fay Pattinson
Project Officer - Agricultural
E-mail: fay.pattinson@rspb.org.uk

Partners

The Romney Marsh Farmland Bird Project is an association of the following: RSPB, Natural England, Kent Wildlife Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Romney Marsh Countryside Partnership and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.