Farmland Bird Monitoring

Last autumn, NCOS kindly provided me with a grant to help set up a farmland bird ringing project on the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate. The Estate has good numbers of farmland birds present in both the breeding season and over-winter, including red-listed species such as Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra, Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella, Linnet Carduelis cannabina and Skylark Alauda arvensis. The project’s aim is to increase understanding of population changes and local movements of farmland bird species over the medium term to help us make conservation management plans for the Estate. I hope to achieve this by a combination of regular winter ringing sessions and nest monitoring in the breeding season.


Ringing birds is very weather dependant as mist nets cannot be used in windy or wet conditions and so there have been limited opportunities to get out so far this winter. However, I have fed the site since October and managed a number of short sessions, which have proved useful to observe bird behaviour and optimise catching methods. A flock of up to 100 Linnet has been building, and good numbers of Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs with smaller numbers of Greenfinch Chloris chloris, Goldfinch Carduelis carduelisi, Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus and Yellowhammer have also been present, and I have so far ringed a number of these species as well as commoner generalist species. As winter progresses and natural food supplies diminish, I hope numbers will build further.

To maximise the data obtained by the project I will be colour-ringing any Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer caught, as both species perch prominently in the breeding season and so should be easy to re-sight. If any NCOS members are out walking on the Sherborne Park Estate, please check these species for colour rings and report them to Corn Bunting colour rings are placed on the left leg and are yellow with one letter and two numbers engraved in black. Yellowhammer colour rings are also placed on the left leg and are dark blue with two letters engraved in white.