RSPB's Hope farm, at the time of the wheat harvest, Knapwell, Cambridgeshire,

Hope Farm in winter

Winter is a time for bumper numbers of birds at Hope Farm. Farm Manager, Ian Dillon reports.

Record winter numbers

"We often view winter as a bleak time of year when we hide indoors, turn the heating up or put on more layers.

Personally, I love winter. Before working for the RSPB, I worked as an avalanche forecaster in the Scottish Highlands. Months of snow and heavy frosts were the norm, with frequent storms.

Despite the lack of snow and frost at Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire, I still look forward to the winters. During the breaks in the weather, I enjoy looking at the flocks of birds that are busy feeding and sheltering in the fields and hedges.

Way back in 2000, in the first winter that the RSPB owned Hope Farm, we counted 530 birds of 30 species.

Last winter we recorded 2,930 birds of 48 species, including over 700 yellowhammers, an amazing increase in numbers and diversity.

The majority of these birds were concentrated in wild bird cover plots, areas of unharvested crops left for the birds to feed on. To finches and buntings they are the 24-hour fast food restaurant, open whenever they need to feed.

They have been so successful at attracting birds that our surveyors are now having great trouble accurately counting the number of birds in these flocks and deciding how many of each species there are. It is a great problem to have though.

I'm really looking forward to the flocks of finches, buntings and other birds building up again this winter. I wonder if we will have record counts again?"

- Ian Dillon, Farm Manager

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, adult male feeding on grain at Hope Farm

How you can help

Small scale trials of potential solutions to farmland bird decline before use in larger scale research trials or agri-environment scheme options, RSPB Hope Farm, Cambridgeshire

Thank you for what you're already doing to help our projects in the UK and abroad - we couldn't do it without you. If you feel you can donate some additional money at this time, it will help us achieve even more.