Jack snipe the star in East Devon farmland bird count

Friday 17th February 2017

Jack snipe by Dave AppletonJack snipe by Dave Appleton

An ‘off-the-cuff’ farmland bird survey in East Devon last week suggested how habitat improvements can help some of our most threatened birds.

Devon Wildlife Trust land advisor David Rolls was visiting three farms in the Otter catchment in one day.

As it was the beginning of the Big Farmland Bird Count, organized each February by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, David decided to do a short survey on each land-holding.

All three sites contain areas of wetland that are being improved for wildlife through DWT’s Upstream Thinking work, funded by South West Water.

The 30-minute survey on each site recorded a total of 119 individual birds, with 28 different species seen. Recording a jack snipe on two different sites was a particular highlight. A winter visitor to Devon, jack snipe are rarer than their larger and longer-billed relative the common snipe.

Other birds of interest recorded in numbers on the three farms in the upper Otter included redwings, starlings and treecreepers. Tawny owl, great spotted woodpecker and common snipe were also seen.

Landowner Roger Hicks, of Luppitt, near Honiton, said: “We were really pleased to take part in the survey. We are fortunate to have a good number of birds on the farm. We really try hard to manage our hedges and wetlands for wildlife. We are very grateful for the advice and funding we are receiving through the Upstream Thinking project and we would certainly recommend it to others”.

David Rolls, Devon Wildlife Trust Working Wetlands advisor added: “To see jack snipe on two different holdings was brilliant. I was with a student at the time and I was literally holding the bird ID book open on the jack snipe page showing him. It was like it flew off the page!

“The number of bird species we saw on the survey is really a testimony to the work the landowners are doing in managing these precious wetland sites in the River Otter catchment, in conjunction with the Upstream Thinking project.”

The South West Water-funded project offers advisory farm visits, soil tests, manure sampling, free aerator loans, production of Integrated Farm Management Plans and assistance with applications for agri-environment and other funding. In east Devon, this service is available throughout the Otter catchment and its tributaries the Wolf, Tale and Love. For more information about the advice, grants and equipment available, farmers and landowners can contact Devon Wildlife Trust’s David Rolls on 07976513132 or Westcountry Rivers Trust’s Yog Watkins on 07854145896. See www.upstreamthinking.org