Summer 2019 proved to be yet another hot summer, with Cirl buntings and other farmland species appearing to do well over the breeding season. There was one very notable and unusual addition to the territory locations, when a breeding pair was established at Nare Head. This is currently the most northerly point recorded.
By the end of August 2019, we had managed to record the same number of territories at St Just, our core area, despite just two of us monitoring intermittently. However, looking at our records going back several years, there appears to have been a shift of breeding areas away from the east of the peninsula towards the west.
There is no clear explanation for this happening, since much of the east side farmland has continued to be managed in the same way over that time. However, some farmland has changed in management, and the reduction in the numbers of cirls present can clearly be attributable to it. Practices such as repeated maize cropping year on year, early stubble spraying in autumn, or increasing grassland for pasture, leaves no seedy weeds for small birds to forage upon over the winter. The RSPB still provides feed supplements at a couple of strategic sites, which undoubtedly helps boost numbers, but this is not an ideal management strategy going forward.
We very much hope to encourage our Roseland Farmers – and indeed farmers beyond in the Fal Valley – to take up Countryside Stewardship (CS) options through being members of the Roseland and Fal Valley Farmers Group, which was launched in 2017. The scheme is funded by Natural England and run jointly by the RSPB and Westcountry Rivers Trust. Being a member of the group can help farmers improve their chances of receiving financial support through CS.
Farmers adopting CS are able to support farmland birds and other wildlife better, through management practices such as over-wintering weedy stubbles, and leaving hard-to-manage areas of land as conservation headlands, or planting more trees. It is very much hoped that the new Agriculture Bill, introduced on January 16th 2020, will enable farmers to farm more innovatively and protect the environment through improved financial support for their businesses.
The autumn/winter monitoring of Cirl buntings is now underway. With my colleague (and very occasional other volunteer helpers) we are walking Roseland farmland looking for as many individual cirls as we can in all the core areas. We’d like to check outlying regions too, but we can only do this with more time and volunteers. We would especially like to do some Cirl searching across the Fal around farmland both north and south of Falmouth, where Cirls have been known to turn up in the past. If you would like to join us on any of the survey days, then do let me know. And if anyone has any sightings of cirls, or simply wants more information, please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
RSPB Roseland and Fal Farmer Facilitation Group Assistant.
Cirl bunting reintroduction project assistant.