The farmland bird winter food gap
A recent visit by Environmental minister Richard Benyon to Hillesden farm in Buckinghamshire has highlighted the so called hunger gap for farmland birds between mid-winter and spring when naturally occurring seeds and fruits are in short supply for farmland birds such as Linnets, Chaffinches, Reed Buntings, Greenfinches and Skylarks.
For five years Hillesden farm has been the home of a detailed study funded by DEFRA and Natural England. The study has covered land management techniques including overwintered stubbles, un-harvested conservation headlands, flower strips and wild bird seed mixtures (covers) along with the additional feeding.
The study illustrated that birds surviving over the winter could be significantly increased by regular feeding on farms along with other measures. Hundreds more birds have been counted on the farms that have taken part in the study, the food for which has been supplied by Vine House Farm. The mixture has included wheat, white millet, canary seed, red millet and oilseed rape. The work on the farms has helped develop the new Environmental Stewardship options now available to farmers. There are now over 50 farmers signed up to the scheme.
Here at Vine House Farm Nicholas has been a long term advocate for winter feeding on the farm and has been doing so for more than 20 years and he believes it is an important element of the winter mix to help farmland birds. Here at Vine House Farm we are currently feeding over 500 birds in three different areas, many of which are Chaffinches and Tree Sparrows. The feeding complements the other conservationmeasures that Nicholas has worked hard to bring about on the farm.