RSPB NI needs you for farmland bird surveys!

A Yellohammer
A Yellohammer

Do you have a love for nature and a fondness for birds and can you tell a yellowhammer from a redshank and a skylark from a song thrush?

Then RSPB NI would be interested in your services as a volunteer farmland surveyor in east County Down as part of the Farming Together with Nature project.

Species such as yellowhammers, skylarks and linnets have experienced widespread decline in recent years, mainly due to a loss of seed-rich habitat. But east County Down is one of the last remaining strongholds for priority seed-eating species in the country.

RSPB NI is working with farmers in the county to provide ‘the big three’ for priority seed-eating birds. These are a summer insect source, a winter seed source and suitable nesting habitat. If one of these requirements is lost or depleted, these birds will find it difficult to survive, especially in winter when food is in short supply. Luckily there are lots of simple things that farmers can do to help birds and other wildlife prosper on their land.

And volunteer surveyors are absolutely essential in helping deliver this project. All you need is knowledge of identifying common farmland birds.

Volunteering provides an excellent opportunity to further improve bird identification skills, increase knowledge of farmland wildlife ecology and learn more about farming.

Full training will be delivered in early March. It is also a great way to get to see some beautiful parts of the countryside you may not have seen before.

Volunteer Ron Price, reflecting on his time surveying, commented: “I do these surveys every year. The rewards are spectacular, seeing and hearing birds including yellowhammers and reed buntings first thing in the morning. The farmer I was working with was very accommodating and it was a pleasure to survey his land. I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved.”

The surveys take place in the early mornings between late April and June and volunteers are asked to visit their designated farm four times over this period.

Each visit takes between three and five hours, depending on the size of the farm. When complete, farmers will receive a follow-up advisory visit to see how they can help the species found on their land. Follow-up surveys will then be undertaken on a three-year basis to monitor any changes in wildlife populations.

With increasing pressures facing farmland wildlife, it is becoming increasingly important for farmers and landowners to do what they can to help give nature a home. Advisory support from RSPB NI can help farmers make the most of their land, both for production and wildlife.

If you are an interested in becoming a volunteer farmland surveyor, please contact RSPB NI Volunteering Development Officer Colin Graham by calling 028 9049 1547 or by emailing colin.graham@rspb.org.uk