• Last summer, an army of volunteers spent two early mornings surveying farmland birds within pre-selected 1km grid squares across the South Downs.  In total 122 squares were covered, providing valuable data for the second year of the SDFBI Monitoring Project.

      The survey, which is repeated annually, uses the same methods employed in the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO) Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).  It is hoped that over time the results can be used to track the fortunes of farmland birds such as linnet, skylark and yellowhammer.

      2015 was the second year of the survey, and has provided some interesting early results.  Two years of data do not yet provide a trend, but there are some interesting changes in the abundance of some species.

      Grid square occupancy (%)       2014       2015   
      Lapwing    11%    10%
      Corn bunting    14%    14%
      Grey partridge    3%    5%
      Skylark    82%    82%
      Yellowhammer    67%    58%
      Linnet    66%    59%
      Red kite   10%    13%
      Buzzard    65%    73%
      Wheatear    11%    9%
      Meadow pipit    21%    22%

      Table 1 - the % of surveyed grid squares in which species were recorded in

      Density/occupied square           2014       2015   
      Lapwing    2.92    4.33
      Corn bunting    3    4
      Grey partridge    4    5.67
      Skylark    7.75    7.4
      Yellowhammer    3.49    4.06
      Linnet    5.97    6.96
      Red kite    1.45    1.4
      Buzzard    1.71    1.95
      Wheatear    2.42    2.55
      Meadow pipit    3.96    4.15

      Table 2 - the average number of birds recorded per occupied grid square

      It is very difficult to draw any clear conclusions from this limited data set at the moment, but we on the way to showing trends over the longer term.  It is interesting to note that for many species, the number of individuals per occupied square in 2015 is higher than that of 2014, which perhaps reflects the good breeding conditions in 2014.  However, 2015 saw a return of cold and wet weather, so we wait with baited breath to see what the 2016 survey will reveal.