Bird aid

Bird aid is targetting three key species

Treesparrows, Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings at various bird aid sites around West Oxfordshire.

Yellowhammer

These seed-eating birds have declined since farming practices have changed. Birds used to feed on seeds in the stubble fields over winter before ploughing in the spring, but fields are now ploughed immediately after the harvest.

Can you sponsor a bag of seed?

If so, please complete the form here and send your donation to Bird Aid, Wychwood Project (Oxfordshire), at the address top right of this page. The cheque should be made payable to the Wychwood Project (Oxfordshire). Every donation will be acknowledged.

Your financial support is needed now to keep the feeding stations going.

  • To feed one tonne of millet (1 year supply) costs £540 or £10 a bag
  • To feed one tonne of corn (1 year supply) costs £200 or £4 a bag
  • A tonne of seed feeds up to 1000 birds a year.
  • £500 will set up a new bird feeding station and will pay for seed, seed bins and bird feeders.
  • £700 per year will keep the existing feeding stations supplied with seed.

Bird Aid sites in West Oxfordshire desperately need funding to allow the current feeding stations to continue and new ones to be opened.

Over the past 8 years, Louise Spicer has organised 10 feeding stations on local farms. 20 volunteers distribute seed at these sites throughout the winter from October to early May. With valuable advice from RSPB, this venture has successfully attracted lots of Yellowhammers and on three sites even scarce Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings. Many other birds also take advantage of the winter food at the feeding stations.

Bird Aid sites in West Oxfordshire

There are bird aid sites in Charlbury, Chipping Norton, Over Norton, Hailey and Crawley.  Other sites at Enstone, Finstock, Fawler and Witney have been tried but have not been successful for various reasons.

Bird watchers would be very welcome at some of these sites.  At present there about 20 volunteers but these are mainly involved in actual feeding - more bird watchers are needed from November to end of April.  In addition, people are needed to count birds on site.  If you would like further information on how to get involved please contact the Wychwood Project office.

If anyone wants to set up a feeding station in the Project area they are very welcome, and advice and support can be given but there is currently no funding for purchasing grain.

Bird Aid Report 2017

2016/17 was fairly mild and dry but as seems to be the trend turned cold with hard night frosts in April and May just when the birds would be getting ready to nest. However the very dry sunny weather may indicate a better breeding season this year. Last year's wet summer meant that there were fewer farmland birds around during winter generally although Over Norton and Honeydale seem to buck this trend.

Bird Aid is now in its 14th year and core funding continued to be provided by two donors. We also received individual donations from members of the Wychwood Project for which we are very grateful.

Ditchley Estate continues to support three local sites by providing two tonnes of tailings (left over seed and grain); enabling the scheme to be of great benefit to large numbers of Yellowhammer and other farmland birds. In addition the Ditchley Estate also continues wild bird feeding on at least six sites throughout the year. More feeders have been set up containing mixed grains. However due to various factors numbers of birds were again considerably lower this winter.

The bird surveys by Richard Broughton and Marta Maziarz at Honeydale Farm and Over Norton Farm have established the importance of continuous supplementary feeding well into the spring. Large numbers of farmland seed-eating birds were supported on these farms, particularly Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Skylark and Linnet together with lesser numbers of Tree sparrows. This is in contrast to other farms, both locally and in the wider  context, as bird numbers at both farms remained relatively high into the late winter period. Further work is planned to confirm the relationship between supplementary feeding and higher bird numbers.

Tree sparrow do not appear to be present in the huge numbers seen in the past. It is possible that numbers are under-estimated in surveys as the birds skulk in hedges and are not put up as flocks from the feeding areas. Also huge numbers of House sparrow make it dificult to sort out actual numbers of Tree sparrow. However the rise of House sparrow numbers may be having a depressant effect on Tree sparrow numbers as they are competing for food and nesting sites. Yellowhammer numbers have declined slightly on most sites. Corn bunting were not recorded at all; this reflects a national trend in the decline of the species. Linnet, Reed bunting and Goldfinch all continue to do well, Bramblings were down in numbers generally. Charlbury's Broadstones had a very  difficult season due to building works and hedgeline management. However Linnet and Yellowhammer continue to be seen and fed in the adjacent quarry.

The site at Taston is attracting more farmland birds with flocks of over 20 Yellowhammer and 20 Linnet counted. Ash Cottage, Hailey has had up to 3 dozen Yellowhammer plus Linnets and the ocasional sightings of Tree sparrows. However the Paddocks was over-run by Wood pigeon and Pheasants (a problem sorted by moving the feeding station).

Two new feeding stations have been set up at Salford and Stonesfield - both showing good numbers of Linnet and Yellowhammer.

Summary of the feeding stations:

Over Norton, Glyme Farm Chipping Norton, Honeydale Farm Shipton-under-Wychwood, Ditchley Estate, Charlbury Broadstones and Quarry, Middle Farm Taston, The Paddocks, and Bridge Cottage Hailey, Salford and Stonesfield.

Louise Spicer

July 2017