Tree Sparrow Project
Tree Sparrow Project
“This is fun” says one of Woodborough Primary school’s children as he finishes his first tree sparrow box and collects his second kit. He can barely be heard over the sound of hammers banging nails in an almost hypnotic rhythm. With the help of Andy Elworthy, Mullens Farm general manager, Ruth Clarricoates, Wessex Chalk Streams Project Officer and Mary Partis, Wildlife Watch leader, the children made a total of 20 nesting boxes to be placed around the farm.
The Key Stage 2 children worked in pairs to construct the bird boxes, with the older ones expertly and confidently helping the younger ones. After all that hammering and with 320 nails safely in place it was reassuring to count the same number of fingers and thumbs at the end of the project as there were at the beginning!
School Deputy Headteacher, Mrs Prathayini Wright, comments that “We have been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to extend our work with Watch Club into the community. The pupils have learnt about endangered species and have also thoroughly enjoyed building the boxes.”
Dean Sherwin of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, reports on the Tree Sparrow Project.
The VCT funded this project and held a school event, allowing children from Woodborough School to construct the wooden boxes and learn about birds and the site.
The locations of the boxes are focused around summer feeding areas, notably trees along the river corridor, wet areas and grassy margins, as well as relatively undisturbed areas on farm buildings.
Martin de Retuerto (previously of Wiltshire Wildlife Trust), explains that “Tree sparrows, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan listed species, have suffered an 85% population decline and 20% range contraction. The species is synonymous with mixed farming landscapes and were once widespread across Wiltshire and Hampshire, but are all but lost as a breeding species in the latter.
“Adults rely on a diet of grass, wildflower and cereal seeds and feed their young on insects. Breeding sites are closely linked with availability of insects and, as such, are often close to river corridors or other wetland features. Changes to agriculture and the loss of nesting sites have driven the population decline, although significant efforts have been exerted in Wiltshire to help their recovery.
Bird surveys have produced records of feeding tree sparrows during the winter at Mullens Farm, while the Wiltshire recovery project has recent records of breeding birds in the neighbouring village of Woodborough. These breeding birds currently form the eastern outlier for the mid Wiltshire breeding population, which is also the closest to the Hampshire border.
Encouraging the species to increase its hold within the Mullens Farm area as a breeding bird helped to develop a more self-sustaining local population as well as encouraging its extension towards Hampshire. The farm possesses an array of habitats relevant to the tree sparrow’s feeding requirements – weedy stubbles, wildflower margins and river corridors for seeds and insects. However, at the moment it does not have sufficient nesting spaces to encourage uptake by breeding birds”.
Our Other Projects…
The Riverfly Monitoring Initiative is based on the counting at regular intervals of key river insect species and other invertebrate groups as a method of assessing river quality.