Corn Buntings and Winter Barley
Corn Buntings in Deeping Fen like to nest near to a crop of winter barley as it gives them a food source for themselves and their young at the end of June and early July until wheat growing in the field becomes edible.
Winter barley is a minority crop in Deeping Fen because it does not pay very well, there is only one farmer that grows winter barley. Corn Buntings in Deeping Fen start nesting two weeks earlier when they are within reach of winter barley, this gives the early nesters the ability of having two broods something they are unable to do when there is no winter barley around. The highest density of Corn Buntings in Deeping Fen is around the farmer who grows winter barley, so it logical to think that Corn Buntings rear more young when nesting near to winter barley and of course the Corn Bunting is also known as“the fat bird of barley”.
We should be growing more winter barley but we can’t expect farmers to grow a crop that doesn’t pay.
One way of growing more winter barley is to sprinkle an ounce of winter barley in half a ton of wheat seed at drilling time and this is what I have been doing for the past 10 years but can or do the Corn Buntings find these ears of winter barley scattered about in a crop of wheat. I knew something was eating this winter barley but I could never prove who was eating it until this morning when I caught a male bird on camera. Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers I expect would like to eat winter barley if they could find some. Some people looking at the photo might say why doesn’t the bird eat the wheatears. The answer is that there is nothing in the wheat ears at this time of year. Winter barley is 3 weeks ahead of wheat and the winter barley ears are only just filling now (26th June).
This is a really simple idea for any farmer in the Fens who has Buntings on his farm, does not have winter barley and wants to give them a helping hand.