Feeding Farmland Birds :
Higher Level Stewardship scheme
" The Hungry Gap" Mid December/ January to March/April
The reason for the hungry gap is primarily that there is simply not enough natural food in our countryside today, but also not enough sown bird food patches. We know very well that UK bird numbers swell through winter migration from colder climates moving to and through the UK so there are more mouths to feed.
In years gone by winter food came from open grain stores, many more livestock farms throughout the country, and all these cattle required feeding and this was traditionally supplied through feeding concentrates, hay and silage and so on, there were also more weedy crops and stubbles. But with tighter control on grain stores and huge changes in farming practises there is now a shortage of readily available food during the hungry gap.
Despite years of trying there seems to be no suitable mix or plant species that fill the hungry gap, generally January to April. Most plants shed seeds readily, that’s what they are designed to do, and the ones that don’t (eg fodder radish) are opened by birds and eaten. These plants tend to run out of seed supply in December / January and new natural spring food will start around April time.
Gamekeepers are familiar with supplementary feeding and this basic principal is now being adopted within stewardship schemes. The research that was carried out by CEH (Centre of Ecology and Hydrology), BTO (British Trust of Ornithology) and WFC (Wildlife Farming Company) has lead to new options under ELS and HLS to supplementary feed in winter for farmland birds. These new options came in on the 1st January 2013 and are available to agreements that started on or after 1st February 2007. The options are worth 630 points/tonne for ELS and £650 / tonne in HLS.
We supply bespoke wild bird seed mixtures to farms and estates throughout the country herewith are some examples of mixes available.
Hungry Gap Mix 1 Re cleaned Wheat 600 Kg, Whole Oats 140 Kg, Yellow Millet 20 Kg , Canary Seed 30 Kg, Linseed 75 Kg , Sunflower Hearts 10 kg, Red Millet 15 Kg, Oil Seed Rape 50 Kg. Black Sunflower Seeds 60 Kg £475/ mt.