Seeds of success as agri-environment scheme benefits bird species on NI farms

Seeds of success as agri-environment scheme benefits bird species on NI farms:

Yellowhammer - Alan Bates

 Three key farmland bird species increased in number over a five-year period in response to an agri-environment scheme (AES), according to a study by the RSPB.

Yellowhammers, house sparrows and tree sparrows rose in abundance in farms taking part in the project across east County Down. Yellowhammers – a red-listed species (a bird of high conservation concern) which had been in sharp decline – were up by an impressive 78% between 2006 and 2011. Yet yellowhammer numbers continue to decline in the wider countryside where measures are not in place.

With the opening this week of the Environmental Farming Scheme (EFS), RSPB NI is encouraging farmers to sign up for this scheme that compensates landowners for undertaking work to enhance biodiversity and water quality.

EFS, administered by the Department of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), is open to all active farmers who have management control of at least three hectares of eligible farmland. Key options in EFS highlighted by RSPB NI are provision of winter feed crop for wild birds, retention of winter stubble, creation of arable margins and creation of pollinator margins.

The RSPB farmland bird study, the first of its kind to be carried out on the island of Ireland, included face-to-face advisory work and showed that AES land management can improve the population status of farmland bird species. As well as the surge in yellowhammer numbers on farms taking part in the AES, house sparrows were up 46% and tree sparrows up 207% in the five-year period.

Kendrew Colhoun, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: “Our study was designed to evaluate whether the last AES options led to increases in the priority species the options were targeted at - and our conclusion was a resounding ‘yes’.

“We see the EFS as a critical component as part of our work to maintain biodiversity across the countryside in Northern Ireland. Our study provides unequivocal evidence that AES can deliver for key species if the correct mix of EFS options (such as ones to provide summer and winter food and nesting habitat) are targeted to the right places and coupled with advice.”

The study assessed whether changes in the abundance of priority farmland bird species differed over a five-year period between farms under AES management and a similar sample of farms not subject to the management. It was conducted in County Down, one of the last remaining areas of lowland mixed arable farmland in Northern Ireland. Three target species (house sparrows, tree sparrows and yellowhammers) showed more positive increases in abundance on the AES farms.

Prior to the current EFS being made available last year, there had been a couple of years without an available AES and this will have had a negative impact on species including the yellowhammer.

Farmer Jack Kelly, who has a farm outside Downpatrick, has employed a range of wider options on his land - including wild bird cover, overwintering stubbles, rough grass margins, pollen and nectar margins, annual wildflower margins, native hedging and a hay meadow. 

Jack Kelly said: “The agri-environmental scheme has been beneficial for us, providing the opportunity to help wildlife on areas of our land which may not be as productive as other areas. We were able to utilise field margins or awkward corners and turn them into havens for wildlife. The overwintered stubbles and wild bird cover plot provides my family and myself with a great spectacle over the winter when hundreds of birds come to feed on the seed. It works well within our farming practices and we would encourage other farmers to make the most of the EFS.”

Sean Woods, RSPB NI Conservation Advisor added: “The opening of the wider EFS provides the opportunity for farmers to help some of our most important species such as the yellowhammer, while receiving a financial reward. Many of our iconic farmland wildlife species rely on farmers utilising measures such as those found in the scheme. We are urging as many farmers as possible to enter EFS to help nature thrive on their land and we would also like to thank the forty-plus farmers that took part in the original research project.”

Farmer Jack Kelly (left), his son Adam Kelly (right) and Sean Woods (RSPB Conservation Advisor, centre).

Bird News Tuesday 21st August

A Hen Harrier was quartering wheat fields at the start of the pathway from Groomsport to Ballymacormick point, see picture below. (Ronnie Snoddy).

This morning a female or juvenile Whinchat was on the beach at Newcastle in front of the golf links. (Danny Baillie).

The juvenile Roseate Tern was still at Kinnegar shore, see picture below. (Michael Latham)

A Green Sandpiper was at Dooey, on the Rosguill Atlantic Drive. Also 12 Common Scoter (and a group of Common Dophins) of Melmore am (Oscar Campbell)

Thanks to Ronnie Snoddy for the picture of the Hen Harrier, to Ginny McKee for the pictures of the Red Grouse and the Ringed Plover, to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Wheatear and to Michael Latham for the picture of the juvenile Roseate Tern:

Bird News Monday 20th August.

2 Hobby where at Banagher Glen, Dungiven (Christine Cassidy/Lindsay Hodges)

A Green Sandpiper was in the SW corner of Lough Beg this evening.(David Steele)

RSPB WoW had 4 Ruff, 3 Sanderling, 13 Knot and 220+ Dunlin. (Wilton Farrelly)

15 Sooty Shearwaters, 400 Manxies and a Great Northern Diver Went past Melmore Head 0850-1010.  This afternoon 2 1cy Mediterranean Gulls were off Rosapenna and another 2 (ad and 1cy) were at Carrigart. Also 3 Greenshank and 5 Knot at the latter (Oscar Campbell)

Inishtrahull Boat Trip

There will be a boat trip to Innishtrahull on Tuesday (21st August). We leave Portballintrae at 11am and we will be back for 6pm. We will be using a 12 seat covered rib.

This is our third trip to this fascinating island off the north coast of Donegal. On previous visits we have seen nesting Great Skuas (two pairs with a chick each), a pair of Chough, Storm Petrels (which nest on the island), Bootle Nosed Dolphins, Red Deer and Grey Seals. In addition to visiting Innishrahull we will also use chum to attract Petrels and Shearwaters to our boat. For further information contact Jim Wells on 07856235144.

Bird News Sunday 19th August

A juvenile Little Gull was at RSPB WoW this afternoon (Daniel Newton)

A Ruff was at Myroe (Michael Latham \ Michael Savage)

Myroe had high counts of 1100+ Ringed Plover and 1900+ Dunlin. There were also 5 Med Gulls and a Ruff. The best at Ballykelly has an adult Med Gull. (Garry Armstrong)

Magilligan had a Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver and an Arctic Skua. (Wilton Farrelly)

The Barmouth had six Whimbrel, a Bonxie and two Arctic Skua. (Stuart McKee)

A Red Kite was flying over the Hilltown Road Rathriland at lunchtime today. (Karen Elliott)

A Ruff and a Whimbrel were on the rocks opposite Croaghan hide, Oxford Island today (Mark Killops)

Ballycarry Bridge, Larne Lough had  a high count of 17 Little Egret at the high tide roost this afternoon (Ian Enlander)

A juvenile Roseate Tern was at Kinnegar this afternoon (Michael Latham)

Seawatching from the Rathlin West Light throughout the day, the highlights were at least 4 Sooty Shearwaters and 1 Arctic Skua (Ric Else and Hazel Watson)

Melmore Head, Co Donegal had 75 Sooty Shearwaters this morning (0815-1115) plus 2 Great Northern Divers, 6 Arctic Skua and 36 Common Scoter. Rosapenna in the afternoon had 4 Red-throated and one Great Northern Diver, 2 Buzzard, Ruff and 10 Black-tailed Godwits. (Oscar Campbell)

Thanks to Michael Latham for this pic of the Ruff:

Greenshank, Thomas Campbell:

Roseate Tern, Michael Latham:

Bird News Saturday 18th August

5 Garganey were in the south west corner of Lough Beg this morning (Richard Hunter)

A juvenile Black Tern was off Kinnegar shore this morning (Garry Armstrong)

Melmore Head Co Donegal had a Wilson's Petrel at  c2pm. (Eric Randall).  A Great Shearwater,  6 Pomarine Skua and 120 Sooty Shearwaters were seen this morning (Oscar Campbell). Also seen were 2 Common Scoter, 2Arctic Terns, 9 Bonxies, 3Arctic Skua, 10 Whimbrel and a Great Northern Diver. (Eric Randall / Oscar Campbell).

A juvenile Cuckoo was at Banagher Glen. Up to 6 Ruff was with approximately 100 Golden Plover at Myroe. (Lindsay Hodges).

In the evening, Melmore Head had another Great Shearwater plus 15 Sooty Shearwaters and a few Skuas (Eric Randall)

Yesterday 200 Whimbrel and a Little Gull were at Dunfanaghy (Oscar Campbell)

Thanks to Lindsay for the pictures of the Cuckoo and a Kestrel and to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Greenfinch:

Bird News Thursday 16th August

The adult Roseate Tern was still at RSPB WoW this morning (Derek Polley)

Thanks to Christine Cassidy for this pic of Chough at Fanad Head:


Bird News Wednesday 15th August

A Peregrine and a Whimbrel were at Reedy Flats on the south shore of Lough Neagh. (Mark Killops).

The Osprey at Lough Beg was seen briefly and distantly again today, see picture below. (Thomas Campbell).

An Arctic Skua was seen from Portmuck this morning (Adam McClure)

Thanks to Thomas for the pictures of the Osprey, Kestrel and Black-tailed Godwit:

Bird News Tuesday 14th August

A Spotted Redshank was at the Peoples Park in Ballymena this afternoon. (David Morrow).

Lough Beg this evening had a juvenile Spotted Redshank, eight Garganey and an Osprey (David Steele)

Yesterday a Roseate Tern and a Ruff were at RSPB WOW (Noeni Bryars) and this afternoon both birds were still there (Colin Mayes)

On Rathlin, the juvenile male Hen Harrier was still present today. 3 Sooty Shearwaters, 1 Arctic Skua, 7 Great Skuas, a Common Scoter and a rather late Puffin were seen offshore from the West Light. (Ric Else and Hazel Watson)

Thanks to David Hill for this pic of Black-tailed Godwits in flight:

Bird News Monday 13th August.

2 Ruff and 3 Common Sandpiper where at Shaw's Lake,Glenanne,Co Armagh. (Neil Cartmill)

Rathlin had a Hen Harrier and a Sooty Shearwater. (Ric and Hazel)

A female Marsh Harrier was seen over Reedy Flats.(Davy Knight)

Sandy Bay, Larne had 2 Sanderling,14 Dunlin,12 Ringed Plover and 7 Turnstone. Glynn had 7 Greenshank, 114 Red-breasted Merganser and a Whimbrel. (Gerald McGeehan/Shireley Dunlop)

A high count of 65 Little Egret where seen from the train between Coleraine and L'derry.(Chris Shaw)

Bird News Sunday 12th August

Belfast WOW reserve at high tide this morning had a Roseate Tern, the winter plumaged Ruff and a Whimbrel. (Garry Armstrong).

A Reed Warbler was at the hide at the Quoile today. (Michael Latham).

A Common Sandpiper was on the Lagan in Lisburn between the Union and Moores bridges. (Eric Randall).

Several Reed Warblers were around the Kinnegoe hide at Oxford Island, see picture below. (Garry Armstrong).

One of the Reed Warblers at Oxford Island and thanks to Michael Latham for the picture of the Sedge Warbler, to Linda Thompson for the picture of the Whimbrel and to Thomas Campbell for the pictures of the Blackcap and the Grey Wagtail:

Bird News Saturday 11th August

This morning St John's Point had a good movement of Manx Shearwaters and 5 Common Scoter in flight (Chris Rankin)

A juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen regularly today at Ballyhay, Donaghadee (Gloria Hayes)

Thanks to Thomas Campbell for this pic of a Redshank from the Barmouth:

Bird News Friday 10th August

An White-winged Black Tern is currently at Inch Lake, Donegal, showing near the Pump House (Theo Campbell / Robert Vaughan)

This evening a huge hirundine roost was at Churchfield Road, Ballycastle. Several thousand Swallows and some Sand Martins dropping into willow biomass. (Clive Mellon)

Bird News Thursday 9th August

RSPB WoW had a Peregrine, 220+ Dunlin, a Roseate Tern, 60+ Curlew and 60+ Lapwing (Derek Polley).

Thanks to Dick Glasgow for the picture of the Willow Warbler and to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Black-tailed Godwit:

Bird News Wednesday 8th August

The juvenile Black Tern was at RSPB WoW with over 200 Dunlin early evening. Water levels are still very low. (Daniel Newton)

An adult Roseate Tern was at RSPB WoW reserve this afternoon (Stuart McKee)

Bird News Tuesday 7th August

On Sunday a Pectoral Sandpiper was at Lady Bay, Lough Neagh (Suzanne Belshaw)

A Pectoral Sandpiper was at Lough Beg this afternoon, on the shoreline at Long Point. Also 32 Ruff, most of them at Church Island. At the southwest corner this evening there was a Green Sandpiper, Turnstone and Whimbrel all over calling but none stopped. (David Steele)

The juvenile Black Tern was at RSPB WoW this evening (Stuart McKee)

Many thanks to Suzanne for the pic of the Pectoral Sandpiper:

Bird News Monday 6th August

A female Hen Harrier was in mid Antrim. (Chris Rankin).

Yesterday a Ruff was at the Barmouth. (Thomas Campbell).

Thanks to Thomas Campbell for the picture of the Mistle Thrush:

Bird News Sunday 5th August

Yesterday the juvenile Black Tern at RSPB WoW disappeared for significant periods of time but was seen again at 7pm (Stuart McKee)

A Tree Pipit and 2 Crossbills over Kinramer, Rathlin this morning. All but the very last handful of Guillemots and Razorbills have now gone from the colonies. Still hundreds of Puffins this morning, but they look as though they will be gone in the next couple of days. (Ric Else and Hazel Watson)

This afternoon RSPB WoW had a Roseate Tern and over 200 Dunlin (Gerard McGeehan / Shirley Dunlop)

Rossnowlagh Donegal had a juv Med Gull, a dark phase Arctic Skua, 6 Great Northern Divers and 106 Common Scoter (Brad Robson)

Male Bullfinch, Wilf Swain:

Ruff, Barmouth, Thomas Campbell:

Bird News Saturday 4th August

The juvenile Black Tern was still at Belfast WOW reserve this morning, see picture below. (Daniel Newton)

6 Ruff were in the south west corner of Lough Beg this morning (Richard Hunter)

A drake Ring-necked Duck was in eclipse plumage at the yacht club end of Quoile Pondage this morning. Also 32 Little Grebes and 2 Common Sandpipers (Chris Murphy)

17 Med Gulls were at Ballykelly Lough Foyle including 14 adults and 3 2nd summer (Brad Robson)

A Hen Harrier was seen near Fivemiletown (Colin Bell)

Black Tern, Daniel Newton:

Bird News Friday 3rd August

A juvenile Black Tern was at RSPB WoW reserve roosting with Terns on the far side opp. the roadside hide (Stuart McKee)

The Wood Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper where still in SW corner of Lough Beg, an Osprey was also seen.(David Steele)

New juvenile Med Gulls continue to appear. A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was at Cushendall and three juvenile Meds were at Cushendun, two of them had yellow rings on their legs. (Colin Guy)

Common Sandpiper - Thomas Campbell.
Med Gulls, Cushendun, Colin Guy

Bird News Thursday 2nd August

A Wood Sandpiper was in the south west corner of Lough Beg. The Wood Sandpiper was still present this evening, also a Garganey and the first juvenile Ruff of the season. (Jeff Larkin/David Steele).

5 Tree Sparrows were in a crop field at St John's Point. (Philip Watson).

A family party of Sparrowhawks was moving through Ormeau Park in Belfast this morning. (Andrew Johnston).

The juvenile Mediterranean Gull was still at East Strand car-park in Portrush. (Colin Guy)

Thanks to Christine Cassidy for the picture of the Peregrine, to Andrew Johnston for the picture of the Sparrowhawk, to Dick Glasgow for the picture of the Dunnock and to Colin Guy for the picture of the juvenile Mediterranean Gull :

Bird News Wednesday 1st August

A juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was visiting a garden in Cultra (Billy Taggart)

Whitehouse Lagoon this morning had 800 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank and 2 Knot (Ian Enlander)

There is clearly a good influx of juvenile Mediterranean Gulls at present. Another color ringed bird (AYKY) which was ringed in Leipzig Germany in early June and seen by S Fyffe on Monday 30/07/18 in Antrim, was today today at McDonalds car park in Coleraine. An unringed bird was also at East Strand, Portrush today (John Clarke)

Thanks to John Clarke for these pics of the two Med Gull seen today:

Bird News Tuesday 31st July

The juvenile Mediterranean Gull with the yellow leg ring AYLT seen at Victoria Park in Belfast on Sunday was ringed near Leipzig, Germany on 8th June and was last seen there on 3rd July so it traveled west 1,272 kms in 27 days. (Ian Enlander).

Unusually a pair of Sand Martins are nesting in a sand dune at Murlough. (Garry Wilkinson).

Thanks to Wilf Swain for the picture of the Grey Herons and Little Egrets:

Bird News Monday 30th July

A Red Kite was seen at  10.34 over the M1 at Saintfield roundabout, Lisburn.(Gary Wilkinson)

Polish Med. Gull.

A juv.Med Gull was photographed at Castle Espie yesterday and had a red leg ring. The readable ring was traced back to Poland, it was ringed on the 6th June as a chick at Rybical. The distance covered was 1,757kms in 57 days since been ringed, just proves what incredible journeys birds undertake. Our thanks to Gareth Platt for providing the information.

Bird News Sunday 29th July

A probable adult Honey Buzzard drifted south over Ballyboley forest near Larne, early afternoon. It was different to David Steele’s bird on Friday. (Davy Hunter)

Belfast WOW reserve this morning had the returning Ruff now in winter plumage, single Whimbrel, Sanderling and Knot and 4 summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits. (Ed O'Hara, Stuart McKee).

2 Crossbills and a Cuckoo were at Clabby Mountain, Co Fermanagh ths morning. (Colin Bell).

Victoria Park, Sydenham this afternoon had 1 ad Med Gull + 2 juv Med Gull. Both juv Med Gulls had colour rings - 1 was from German study yellow ring AYLT and the others origin was unclear but likely to be France/Belgium/Netherlands white ring 339J. A Common Sandpiper also present (Ian Enlander)

Following on from the recent sightings of two young colour-ringed Med Gulls from Germany, a further young colour-ringed Med Gull from Poland, was at Castle Espie today (Gareth Platt)

A flock of 13 Whimbrel was seen at the Barmouth. The Estuary had a summer plumaged Knot, summer Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Sanderling and a Greenshank (Colin Guy)

Thanks to Thomas Campbell for this pic of a Common Sandpiper and Gareth Platt for the juvenile Med Gull:

Bird News Saturday 28th July

A single Whimbrel was the best at Ballymacormick Point this morning (Richard Hunter).

4 Sanderling and the juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were still at Belfast WOW reserve, two Red Knot were at Kinnegar shore. (Stuart McKee).

A juvenile Mediterranean Gull, another German ringed bird with a yellow ring AYKY, was at Loughshore Park in Antrim, see picture below. (Stephen Foster)

Thanks to Jonny Andrews for the picture of the Yellowhammer, to Thomas Campbell for the picture of the Kestrel, to Stuart McKee for the pictures of the Knot and the juvenile Mediterranean Gull predating a tern chick and to Stephen Foster for the ringed juvenile Mediterranean Gull:

Bird News Friday 27th July

A Honey Buzzard (female pale-type with extensively white underparts), was seen at Banagher Glen near Dungiven, Co. Derry, it seemed to be on the move, watched for 15 minutes around 2pm drifting, flapping and  gliding  east / southeast along the full length of the glen. It was eventually lost in view over forestry beyond the reservoir. Briefly interacting with common buzzards and ravens (David Steele)

A juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was in a garden at Upper Ballinderry, Lisburn, this morning. (Robin Brown) see pic. below.

A single Whimbrel was at Belfast WOW reserve, four Red Knot were at Kinnegar Pool, see picture below. (Stuart McKee).