Guest blog by James Adler, Agriculture Officer for the Wildlife Trusts

The Skylark

Where is it? I can hear a beautiful lilting song, I know I’m in the right place, but against the clear blue sky I can see nothing. I lie on my back which confuses a couple of Pied Wagtails, who float over to investigate me before flying off to another corner.

The song is so loud; it seems like I should be able to find the bird easily and yet it takes a couple of minutes to pinpoint the tiny dot. When I finally get the binoculars lined up on the small male Skylark, the incredible effort required to be belting out his song whilst hovering over his territory becomes clear. He is the true harbinger of spring in the grasslands.


Skylarks are not much to look at, with their brown and streaky white upper parts and paler chest, but they are a sentinel of biodiverse grassland. This is because their diet is mainly insects but includes seeds when available. They also need small bare areas of ground and short sward patches for feeding, along with longer grass for nesting.

These factors, if present, will be maximising the species the field supports. The bird has declined hugely in the last few decades due to changing pasture practices (especially early cut silage) and an increase in pesticides, reducing its food supplies.

We set our grazing levels and silage making times around the breeding habits of this little bird. We shut up some fields for hay and don’t cut until after the 15th July which gives the birds the chance to fledge their young.

If we can get these levels right we find that the entire grassland bird community thrives, with Little Owl and Linnets making regular appearances whilst still completing our farming cycle. In the winter Short Eared Owls hunt, scaring the flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare who are working their way through the sward.

The Skylark has been heralding spring for hundreds of years and with just a little bit of help it will be doing so long into the future. Please think about getting out and helping survey these wonderful birds in February for the Big Farmland Bird Count 2016. You will be making a real difference.

The third #BFBC takes place between 6th and 14th February 2016

We're asking people to spend 30 minutes on any one day between the 6th and 14th February recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.

Sign up for Big Farmland Bird Count reminders > 


Farmland birds

at 9:58 on 01/02/2016 by Anonymous

Farming practice in the UK is the best in the world for welfare and conservation, we should generally paise our hard working British farmers who look after our land. Also our hedgerows act means we have more hedgerows than any other country. Please instead consider predation as the major cause rather than attacking farming. The number of magpies, crows, grey squirrels and sparowhawks has increased several 100percent. Those corvids and greya love to raid bird nests and kill fledglings. In the last couple of decades they have been able to thrive without proper control. Also the badger who's numbers have never been higher. The badger loves to eat ground nesting birds eggs, baby birds, hedgehogs and bumble bees. We live in a culture that doesn't think twice about buying unsustainable amounts of meat and fish wrapped in plastic without considering that produced had to be killed and butchered. None of the major organisations will tell us that predation is a major cause of the decline. Neither will they talk about the impact of wind farms on migratory birds...that has been glossed over. Lets not discount the inpact of the exloded cat population that keeps expanding with the growing areas of building projects on greenbelt. How much more of our countryside is going to be built on. Look after our farmers or they will give up producing food and sell their land for building development!! Who could blame them. All those barns that are being lost that were home to generations of swifts and swallows. Who can blame the next generation for not wanting to take over the family farm. Have a good look around and see who is buying that land and how things will change, and not for the better. Look after British farming and point the finger of blame elsewhere for once. Ignoring predation is the danger. All of us should buy a larson trap and get those killer magpie numbers under control! That would be a positive start.

Farmland birds

at 17:21 on 29/01/2016 by Neil Anderson

Conservation tillage is helping the return of Farmland birds on our farm, direct drilling into cover crops is increasing invertebrate numbers while also providing cover for birds. thanks to conservation tillage we now regularly have groups in excess of 50 skylarks over wintering on fields

Farmland birds

at 15:22 on 29/01/2016 by Roger Ashby

Modern farming methods, amongst other things are contributing to wildlife decline driven by the quest for cheap food. This policy has failed on all fronts, decimation of the countryside, vast amounts of food waste and a human population that has probably never been so unhealthy. In this country we could survive on 50% of the food we grow, possibly 25% if you had a AP McCoy diet. Food is too cheap and more income needs to be filtered down to the land managers so a workable wildlife restoration approach can be implemented.

Farmland birds

at 9:16 on 27/01/2016 by Lyn hodgson

In the Linc's wolds there's hardly any skylarks no cookoos.one or two peewits one or two yellow hammers really nothing left to speak of because of modern farming.Its no good waffling on we've ruined it all.it will never be any different whilst having to feed large human populations.say it as it is for once.

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