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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Arable farmland as habitat (1 Viewer)

citrinella

Well-known member
As a farmer I am an enthusiatic provider of habitat. We need to produce food but 10% plus of this farm is given over to wildflower habitats (annual and perennial), rough grass, scrub, woodland and water or wetland. I have also been minimizing cultivation, returning crop residues and doing all I can to imporve soils and avoid damage. We use chemicals but no insecticides for many years and make efforts to avoid chemicalk use where possible.

In that light it is interesting that in winter autumn sown crops can be very popular feeding spots for birds. Most winters some are used by large numbers of fieldfare, typically on a once a month for a few days basis. Golden plover use open areas of the farm every winter too, whether cropped or not, but I am not sure to what extent this is for feeding rather than roosting between tides on the coast c.15km away.

In the last few days we have noticed an area of winter wheat being used in an interesting pattern. From first light we see carrion crow and herring gull foraging. They disappear mid-morning and fieldfare and finches are more evident (not constantly). Mid afternoon these depart then towards dark the carrion crows return.

I am sure we could all work to make arable farmland less of a desert for wildlife.

Mike.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Thank you for an interesting post.

On the Golden Plover question, have you tried to relate their presence/absence to the tide times on the 15km distant coast? That might provide an answer. It would require just a note of the times you observe them present and, after a suitable sample time, a bit of work with the relevant tide tables.

Cheers

John
 

citrinella

Well-known member
Thank you for an interesting post.

On the Golden Plover question, have you tried to relate their presence/absence to the tide times on the 15km distant coast? That might provide an answer. It would require just a note of the times you observe them present and, after a suitable sample time, a bit of work with the relevant tide tables.

Cheers

John
Thank you John,

No. This had occurred to me, but recording absence would be difficult as they appear to range over a wide area. When they are out on the ground they are hard to spot even when you know where to look, and they usually only call when (at least some are) in flight. I guess I'd record absence too poorly to get a reliable answer. I would never resort to the "Victorian" solution of shooting one or two and examining crop contents :(

Mike.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Thank you John,

No. This had occurred to me, but recording absence would be difficult as they appear to range over a wide area. When they are out on the ground they are hard to spot even when you know where to look, and they usually only call when (at least some are) in flight. I guess I'd record absence too poorly to get a reliable answer. I would never resort to the "Victorian" solution of shooting one or two and examining crop contents :(

Mike.
I don't think you need to record absence, and for that matter you don't need an entire dataset. Just note down times when you do notice presence and compare them to high tide times. After a while you will have a sufficient number of data points to see whether the Golden Plover flock's presence matches high tide times or is independent of them. I suggest if the times are two hours or more past/before a high tide then its not that driving them, but you can work out your own criteria.

Cheers

John
 

citrinella

Well-known member
I don't think you need to record absence, and for that matter you don't need an entire dataset. Just note down times when you do notice presence and compare them to high tide times. After a while you will have a sufficient number of data points to see whether the Golden Plover flock's presence matches high tide times or is independent of them. I suggest if the times are two hours or more past/before a high tide then its not that driving them, but you can work out your own criteria.

Cheers

John
Hi John,

Yes, I agree presence here regularly at times that coastal feeding is available might suggest feeding here.

I have historic records in BirdTrack, but when I tried to Download them I got zip. I have emailed the BirdTrack team to check what I am missing so hopefully will get help with that - after the New Year holiday.

Mike.
 

citrinella

Well-known member
Hi again John,

The wonderful BTO have already helped, correctly identified the issue as a pop-up blocker so I can report :

I have 18 usable observsations dating back to October 2017. Before that I have observations dating back to 2007 but cannot get tide times on the web, dates concerned won't open. My time recording may not be particularly accurate - within half an hour probably, and the tide station looks to be about 5 minutes behind Aberlady Bay - the nearest and highly probable feeding opportunity for the birds. However, they have a wide range of opportunities in the Forth estuary so this method has serious uncertainties attached.

Of those 18 observations only 5 are within two hours of high tide. So on the majority of occasions birds observed could probably have been feeding on the coast yet were here instead. I think that suggests a strong probability that they are able to and do feed here.

We have a lot of records from winter but extremely few have accurate times recorded. While ringing we record all the other species noticed (mostly heard) and Golden plover are easily heard. However we do not have time to record observation time accurately - ascribing these to the period we are present such as between 06:00 and 11:00. I don't see us improving our recording for this purpose - we simply have to focus on the task in hand - extracting and processing birds carefully and as swiftly as possible. Certainly it is disappointing that only 18 out of 86 records (since 2007) were usable. 26 were from ringing sessions with a lengthy time period, on four I had omitted to record time at all (probably couldn't remember). Inability to get (free) tide data before October 2017 eliminated 38 records which did have unique times attached.

Mike.
 
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kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Just out of interest, have you ever recorded jack snipe on your land? I ask this because a couple of years ago I was doing some survey work on an area of well-managed (for wildlife) arable land in Northumberland - I put one up from a game / wildlife crop strip on one occasion, and the second time disturbed one from the middle of a stubble field. It struck me that most birders don't usually have permission to wander randomly across stubble fields (plus they don't reveal themselves until you almost step on them...) so they may be greatly under-recorded in this habitat.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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