Over the last week or so, the weather has taken a decidedly wintery turn. The frost, and even some snow, has arrived and the northerly wind provides a biting chill on top of the Downs. As a result many farmland birds will move to find readily available food sources, often in quite large numbers. Wild bird seed mixtures, winter stubbles or even fodder crops can play host to large flocks of hungry mouths.
If you are taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count next week, it might be worth thinking about where is the best place to survey. Agri-environment options that provide a rich seed source would be a good place to start. You may be surprised at the number and variety of birds that can be seen there. Quite often, the birds will be used to seeing vehicles and not mind them passing quite close by, giving you a good opportunity to have a close up view and identify those 'little brown jobs'.
Another way to find out where the big winter flocks of birds are, and if they are on your farm, is to look at the local bird club websites. Some, such as the Sussex Ornithological Societies have a recent sightings page, where local bird watchers can post their records. You can even search for individual species if you are looking for a specific bird. This of course won’t be a complete picture, as records are generally submitted from public rights of way, but it highlights the general areas where the birds are gathering.
We have already seen from the first year of the SDFBI Bird Monitoring Project that the Downs is a good place to find nationally declining species such as skylark, yellowhammer and linnet. A quick search of the bird club sightings confirms this and highlights the importance of farmland and the habitats you can provide within it.