Birds and Farm Landscapes Project helps see birds through the winter!

PUBLISHED: 02/05/2014

The project has really taken off this winter with a great variety of activities taking place that will help birds in many ways; including creating sites suitable for birds to nest this spring and providing food over the winter months when naturally occurring food is scarce.

Fifteen hectares of seed mix for wild birds was planted on various sites on the Mortham Estate last spring, funded by the project. Surveys of the bird species feeding on the seed were carried out during the winter on three sample plots by the Birding Group the Teesdale U3A. All the plots were extensively used by small birds with star species such as Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Brambling being recorded. The search is now on for sites to plant a further 15 hectares ready for next winter.

In addition to this, several feeding sites were set up for small birds on farms, at schools in Gainford and Bowes and at a Barnard Castle Golf Course. Altogether, about two tonnes of seed were consumed by the birds, even though the winter was mild! As a result more birds will start the breeding season in good condition, and it is hoped that at least on some of the sites the owners will continue feeding after the project finishes. 
Approximately 1500 trees have been planted by the project partners, Trees for Cotherstone, and local farmers, some as individual trees and the remainder as small areas of new woodland. In addition more than 1250m of hedgerow has also been planted. Durham Bird Club, another project partner, has been involved in the making and installation of more than 80 nest boxes for Tree Sparrows and other birds with the help of Barnard Castle Guides, and 8 Barn Owl boxes have been put up in areas where the birds have been seen, as lack of suitable nesting sites is often an important factor in their distribution.
Project Officer Jennie Stafford is now looking for sites for future conservation work whilst a team of surveyors is currently carrying out bird surveys on six farms within the area. We are very grateful to the RSPB for preparing the survey maps for each farm, free of charge.
The next in a series of workshops and events carried out as part of the project will be a Birds and Wild Flowers walk on a beautiful farm bordering the River Greta. The farmer, an enthusiastic conservationist, will lead the party and give an insight into some of challenges he has faced. The walk will take place on Friday 4 July at 6pm. Contact Ian Moorhouse on 01833 650 730 or at for more details. 
For further information about introducing conservation measures on your land please contact Jennie Stafford on 07866 235307 or at
Photo by M Newsome

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