songbirds

How can we manage broadleaved woodland to benefit birds?

Broome et al 2017Although broadleaved woodland, an important habitat for many birds, is increasing in the UK, songbird populations are still in decline. An interesting new review of previous research, combined with a field study by the Forestry Commission, has provided some possible solutions to this quandary.

Researchers studied a representative sample of broadland lowland woodlands in England and Wales, assessing the effect of woodland management (silvicultural intervention and control of deer browsing) on vegetation structure, and the relationships between vegetation structure and woodland birds.

Different bird species have different habitat and resource requirements, which researchers identified from a review of existing literature. For example, while hawfinches mainly forage in woodland canopy, dunnocks forage on the ground and willow tits are reliant on the shrub layer for their foraging requirements. Wood warblers prefer mature woodland, whereas song thrush require woodland in a younger stage of development.

As well as summarising resource requirements for 17 target bird species, the study classified different woodland stand structures from A to F, which related to their value to birds:

A – dense low shrub layer
B – dense high shrub layer
C – open understory
D – open canopy
E – closed canopy, few strata
F – closed canopy, multiple strata

The most frequently occurring structures found currently in lowland broadleaved woodlands in England and Wales were stand type E, which are of least value to woodland birds.

The crucial finding from this research is that a very high proportion of lowland broadleaved woodland in England and Wales is of fairly uniform structure. This lack of structural heterogeneity means that our woodlands are missing the mosaic of habitats which different bird species rely on.

Simply increasing the UK’s area of broadleaved woodland is not enough to help songbird populations recover: these woodlands need appropriate, targeted management to deliver a mixture of different stand structures at the landscape scale.

This research has identified a novel approach, providing woodland owners and managers with practical management advice to increase the biodiversity value of their woodland. Creating a more diverse structure through targeted woodland management practices is essential to provide suitable habitat and resources, and to enable woodland bird populations to thrive.

Read the full research paper here.

Their Future is Our Future – World Migratory Bird Day 2017 

Today is World Migratory Bird Day – an international celebration of the ecological importance of birds.

Watch the official World Migratory Bird Day trailer here:

Their future is our future!

To learn more about the fantastic collaborations which are happening to help conserve our migratory birds, visit the World Migratory Bird Day website.

Woods alive to the sound and throb of spring: Country diary 100 years ago | Environment | The Guardian

 

Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 1 May 1917, this little insight into the sounds of the countryside a century ago makes for an enchanting read.

But there’s a more sombre angle to take note of as well: with the numbers of songbirds declining in the UK, our dawn chorus is getting harder and harder to hear. The sounds of spring today are much less rich than in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

SongBird Survival aims to save the dawn chorus for tomorrow by researching the reasons for songbird decline in the UK, and promoting solutions to restore their numbers.

With International Dawn Chorus Day taking place this weekend, Sunday 7th May, now is a fantastic time to get outdoors and hear this wonderful natural spectacle for yourself.

Source: Woods alive to the sound and throb of spring: Country diary 100 years ago | Environment | The Guardian

 

Gardens for wildlife

Well done B&Q! As the UK’s leading garden centre retailer, they’ve just commissioned a report into the importance of gardens for wildlife, with practical ideas on how to help.

It includes a top 10 tips for beginner gardeners, including creating shelter, ponds, and making your cat safe and seen to reduce the threat to wildlife:

B&Q

The report shows that 67% of people are concerned about British wildlife, and with 24 million gardens in the UK, there’s plenty of scope for people to get involved. Having a small garden doesn’t stop you from making a difference for wildlife. Even small spaces are valuable for songbirds and other wildlife. SongBird Survival have some great tips for small spaces, as well as lots of information on planting for birds.

With wildlife conservation news often focused on the doom and gloom, B&Q’s report shows that there’s a lot to be hopeful about in terms of UK wildlife.

To find out more about how you can help wildlife in your garden, read the full B&Q Nature of Gardens report here.

Woodland birds threatened by high deer numbers

New research from a team at the University of Nottingham has found that high populations of deer in UK woodlands are having a negative impact on woodland birds.

Dr Markus Eichhorn studied the factors behind the decline in species such as nightingale, marsh tit, willow tit and lesser-spotted woodpecker.

Breeding populations of these birds have suffered severe declines over the last 25 years, whilst the number of deer has doubled. The absence of large predators, such as wolf, lynx and bear, and reduction in hunting, are some of the reasons for deer population expansion.

Although deer do play a part in the health of woodland ecosystems, over-browsing can also have a negative effect. The researchers used laser technology to build 3D maps of woodlands. Comparing 40 woodland areas in England, the team found in areas of dense deer populations there was 68% less foliage near the ground compared with areas with fewer deer.

Dr Eichhorn suggests that if we want to encourage more woodland birds, then we need to take action to restore the woodland structures that they require. Replacing farmed venison with wild meat is one way that deer populations could be controlled.

This research was published in the Journal of Applied EcologyMore about this fascinating paper can be seen here.

Citation: Eichhorn, M. P., Ryding, J., Smith, M. J., Gill, R. M. A., Siriwardena, G. M. and Fuller, R. J. (2017), Effects of deer on woodland structure revealed through terrestrial laser scanning. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12902

Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian

Great article in the Guardian about the Swedish art of gökotta. With International Dawn Chorus Day next month, there’s plenty to get up early for at this time of year!

Swedes call it ‘early cuckoo morning’ – the act of getting up just to enjoy the first birdsong.

Read more here: Source – Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian

Big Garden Birdwatch – the results are in

At the end of January every year, citizen scientists across the UK take part in the the Big Garden Birdwatch.

Almost half a million people participated in this year’s event, spending an hour in their garden or local park recording the birds that they saw. All the data was submitted to the RSPB, and after some serious number crunching, the results are now out.

The top 10 birds this year are:

1. House sparrow
2. Starling
3. Blackbird
4. Bluetit
5. Woodpigeon
6. Goldfinch
7. Robin
8. Great tit
9. Chaffinch
10. Long tailed tit

Alongside these, high numbers of migratory birds such as waxwings and fieldfares were also reported. Weather conditions in Scandinavia resulted in the berry crop failing this year, which is thought to have caused these species to flock to the UK in search of food.

But the top 10 list above doesn’t tell the whole story; although starlings were the second most commonly reported bird this year, starling populations have actually decreased by a worrying 79% since 1979.

Both chaffinch and greenfinch populations are also down by well over 50% since the 1970s. Tits haven’t fared so well either, with less blue tits, great tits and coal tits recorded than last year.

Citizen science projects such as this give a valuable insight into the health of our wildlife in the UK. They show that our much loved songbirds are in trouble.

SongBird Survival is an independent bird charity working to understand the reasons behind songbird declines in the UK. We raise funds to commission targeted research, and aim to identify solutions to restore songbird numbers, saving the dawn chorus for tomorrow.

To learn more about our work and how you can help, visit our website.