BTO Winter Thrush Survey

By Matthias Barby (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Matthias Barby (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Last week I did my Big Society thing for the BTO winter thrush survey.  There was a spell of what we will have to call fine weather in the morning and I was out looking for blackbirds, song thrushes, mistle thrushes, redwings and fieldfares, and indeed waxwings and starlings, and indeed anything else that might walk or fly past.

The most enjoyable part of the whole exercise was entering the route, bird sightings and area surveyed online on the map – to be perfectly honest.  I enjoyed those bits very much and have a sneaking suspicion that this survey is being used to train the BTO workforce in online data entry.  If so – well done BTO!  And I feel I ought to have a ‘Big Society’ badge from David Cameron for all my efforts.

Yes I saw some birds too – but not many.  In fact I saw 11 blackbirds and no other examples of any of the target species.  But the best birds I saw, while looking carefully for the first time at a field I have driven past on numerous occasions, were 6 grey partridges.  These were only about a mile from home in a straight line and were a nice surprise.

You can see my impeccably entered data online here and the location of my survey square is the red one under the ‘s’ of Raunds here.  You can also have a quick look around the country at what others have seen – which is  a nice and novel enhancement of the usual state of play.

I’m fairly sure that each time I drive past this area in the nest few weeks the trees will be laden with fieldfares and redwings (at least) but they honestly weren’t there last Friday.  I promise.

 

By MPF (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By MPF (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
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42 Replies to “BTO Winter Thrush Survey”

  1. I will be walking my "winter thrush" route again (nr. Bisley Glos.) this morning but since I first did it in October the local farmer/landowner has flailed the hedges and they are now a mere shadow or their former selves and almost devoid of berries, so I don't hold out much hope.

    Well done Mark for finding the online computer route mapping and data entry aspect of this BTO survey enjoyable - I have to admit to really struggling with it to start with, as I found it not very user friendly; this was a surprise after the online data entry system for the recent BTO "Atlas" which was a joy to use.

    Hope I see some Grey Partridge while doing my survey, which is possible, but very unlikely nowadays!

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    1. Ditto Tony in reference to the online data entry system by the BTO, it frooze on me, I then tried to restart the process but refused to work all together and all i was able to do was enter "d" in Douglas in one of the fields, I gave up in the end I'm ashamed to say. Pitty because the spot I was going to do has Mistle and Song Thrush and had Redwing and Fieldfare.....Any chance of having a word Mark with the BTO?

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  2. Does anybody know why the BTO WTS is asking us to record sightings of the seemingly random selection of species consisting of Lapwing, Hawfinch , Black-headed Gull, Sparrowhawk & Great Grey Shrike? (I think there's one other but I can't remember it)

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    1. I asked John Marchant the WTS organiser this question at the BTO regional representatives conference. He said it was a selection of species that staff at BTO were interested in. Unfortunately that explanation does not appear on the website as far as I can see. The other species is golden plover.

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  3. Tony, you need to get your local farmer into Els then he will cut the hedges biannually. Worth pointing out though that we are very lucky in this country to have so many hedges still and that hedge management is not quite as straightforward as just not cutting them. Left alone they turn into a line of tall trees ultimately which isn't really the idea as I'm sure you would agree. We rotationally coppice tall hedges back to the ground in much the same way as you would say in your garden but always we get accused of vandalism until we explain.

    Mark thanks for the twitter link. You know I probably would loose the bet having listened to the podcast ! (Which I thought was very good)

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    1. Julian, yes perhaps I should find out who he/she is and drop them a line.

      I only saw one Blackbird and two Redwings in 3 km on my survey so very poor indeed! I did see partridge but they were red-legged ones.

      I don't think the occasional tree in a hedge-line is a bad thing but the flail does not discriminate so we seem lose all the tree saplings. The predominant trees round here are Ash and Beech so, sadly, it is very likely that we are going to be losing a significant proportion of our mature trees if the ash fungus develops as most people suspect it will; a few extra trees along hedgerows might soften the coming blow slightly!

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  4. It always grates that everyone mentions farmers when they trim hedges once a year yet no mention of general public trimming their hedges all through the breeding season several times,very strange.
    General public have the answer in their own hands that if they get the grants set up correctly so that it is in farmers financial interests to only trim hedges every 2 years they will definitely do that.
    Like all things such as RSPB reserves if you want something you have to pay for it.
    Wildlife is not a natural thing for farmers to cultivate as pride in their farms has always meant tidy farms and hedges for generations and adjusting may take time.

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    1. Whilst I too Dennis see little point in farmer bashing much of the time, ( its the system thats lets us all down) I'm afraid when it comes to hedges certainly with few exceptions around here they are clueless-- hedges flailed to almost nothing in many instances each year. In an ideal world we wouls till have all hedges laid but failing that cut one side a year and top when and if necessary. Then there would always be some berries, to my mind the hedge flail is one of the worst of machines, to be used sparingly only when absolutely necessary.

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  5. So you haven't got the thrushes either Mark - someone somewhere must have em!

    Loads on my survey route a couple of days before the clipboard came out...

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  6. Did my Winter Thrush Survey in a "core square" today. Only saw five blackbirds over approx. 2km/55mins. in spite of the weather being good. However, in the past seven visits to my own chosen square I have at least seen a few song thrushes, and small (c8) flocks redwings and fieldfares in addition to blackbirds. of course, when I'm not doing survey I've seen flocks of 20ish fieldfares and 40ish redwings!

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  7. There are in my opinion many problems attached to the hedge problem.It is quite obvious most farmers(with which I strongly agree with)consider that yearly trim is the best management to keep the hedge in best condition.I think that if the grants were financed to encourage farmers to trim every 2 years for birds benefit they would do so but the RSPB think they know more about hedge management than farmers who have generations of experience.It would definitely help if the RSPB acknowledged that farmers by trimming every 2 years were in fact helping birds at the slight disadvantage of the quality of hedge.Disagree about the flail trimmer as when used correctly it is a good a tool for keeping hedge in good condition and one massive problem that in my opinion pro hedge layers never acknowledge is that you can only in most cases do it only once then of course it depends on the flail to keep it under control.

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    1. Dennis I agree farming bashing isn't fair, nor is gamekeeping bashing, as there are plenty of good farmers out there and a lot of raptor persecution cases start with an annonymous call from a gamekeeper-FACT. However at the same time I fear you do have rosy outlook about your chosen proffession and how farmers seem to know better wether it be hedgerow management and other farming/countryside issues. After all who was it that decided the best thing to do was spray the countryside in dangerous chemicals just to get a better yield, who was that decided to feed cattle with sheep ofal/sheep scrapie which in turn infected cattle with BSE, yet when it goes all tits up it's the politicians/townies and just about everyone else who gets the blame.

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      1. Actually Douglas farmers have rarely individually made the decisions you talk of, it is the whole system that is /was at fault, starting with our demand for cheap food. As to keepers, I am quite happy to acknowledge that the majority of pheasant and partridge keepers do not apparently persecute and a well run shoot with a moderate number of birds may enhance our wild life. However I have bird watched, beaten and even shot on grouse moors since I was 16 and now nearly four decades later I can tell you hand on heart that I can count the number of moor keepers who definitely did not or do not persecute almost on the fingers of ONE hand. If the good guys were regularly shopping the bad guys raptor persecution would have stopped long long ago.

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        1. Paul not for one minute do I believe that a "majority" of shoots are responsible. My point I was making was there was this year 1 case that was brought in front of a judge where the intial tip off came from a worker on the estate, 1 isn't enough and highlights what you've said perfectly, a few years back there was a case were a gamekeeper was keeping a diary of all the corvids,buzzards,foxes and badgers he had trapped/poisoned, he was from the West Midlands, the RSPB/Police got a call from a concerned co-worker...think about it like this Paul, you're working on such an estate where raptors are being killed, you don't like what you see, you know if you get found out to be the one who grassed you'd loose your job, how quickly would you change your mind about doing the right thing if you suddenly starting reading just ONE side of the story and people just bashing gamekeepers would you still do the right thing? Probably not as you'd think there isn't anyone supporting you and you'd end up getting tarred by both sides. As for farmers not being in charge of their own farms? Sure some tenant famers might not have a choice or much of an input or farmers whose farm are owed by agri-business or landowners etc but some farm that don't fall into the forementioned catergory do have a choice. What animal feed they use, what crops they plant, what pesticides/chemicals they do or don't use and what animals they farm, after all in the point I made if the farmers didn't have the choice of the use of the chemicals that they sprayed how is it when some were using these chemicals other farms were switching to organic?
          As for peoples greed/need for cheap food, that in itself is/should be a topic on this blog. I for example if I wished to could not afford to go for the organic option in supermarkets, economic forces etc means I have a limited budget, None of my food ends up in the bin or wasting away in the back of the cupboard if anything the cupboards are bare before my next pay check, so I often recoil in horror when I hear people saying we should stop selling food cheap thus putting big demands in farmers to produce more as often these people have a pretty healthy income compared to someone on a lower income. The demand for cheap food isn't one for more food so people can just gorge and get fat, why do you think FOOD BANKS this year have been outstripped by demand. I don't like doing this but here's how my finances break down. I earn 21,000 p/a, that to me should be an adequate wage to get by on...SHOULD. Before tax thats £1,750 per month by the time my mortgage for a one bedroom flat, council tax, income tax, NI is taken out I'm left with £865. Out of that I roughly pay via a meter £45 for electric and again by meter £35 for gas, car insurance and running costs of car to work (getting to work for 5am means sadly public transport in Northants doesn't operate to the industrial estates until the 6am shifts start) adds another £100 for insurance and £55 petrol so we now at £630 for the month the I have to take another £200 for loans per month so now I'm left with just £430 and just £20 for house insurance leaving me £410 for the month to feed myself on for the month and dea with any emergencies such a burst pipes, broken down car etc , cheap food often gets portrayed as "people want more to eat for less price", and what I'm saying it isn't neccesarily so, sometimes the demand for cheap food is just to be able to put ONE meal on the table. As grim as it sounds that's all I have to eat ONE MEAL A DAY and not gorge myself until my belly goes pop.

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  8. I did my first core square today up on the Lincs wolds, it was bright, breezy and very fresh. 10 blackbirds, 1 mistle thrush and 1 fieldfare was my tally. Most of these were feeding on pasture rather than in hedges. Very few berries around. Most thrushes I am seeing and especially starlings seem to be around human settlements.

    One provocative thought. If we expect farmers to manage their hedges in a wildlife friendly way because they get subsidies from the taxpayer, should we be expecting those in receipt of state pensions, housing benefit, unemployment benefit, child tax credits and any form of state cash to manage their property/gardens in a wildlife friendly way? If we did we should have plenty of swifts nesting in bank branches!

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  9. Hedges have somewhat lost their role on the farm, they were field boundaries designed to keep livestock confined. To do this they needed to be deep and thick -particularly at sheep head height. Laying was the best way to maintain a hedge for livestock management. Nowadays most farmers use wire fences for stock control. The hedge has become a landscape item and the loss of its primary function has resulted in a different management technique which is designed to produce a green line that from a distance appears to give fields a boundary. Many of these green lines have little wildlife value and about as much landscape value as wire fence since they are uniform. Hedges should only be cut once every 3 years and not all hedges on a farm should be cut in the same year, this wouldn't return the hedgerow habitat to its former value but it would make a significant difference.
    There is some research on the wildlife food value of an old fashioned hedge and modern hedge, the richness of the old fashioned hedge is just amazing and the paucity of food in a modern hedge is desperate. I have long held the view that conservationists have woefully let wildlife down by not campaigning vigorously to get hedgerow management improved - I would go so far as to wish it were covered by legally binding legislation.
    I decided not to do the Thrush Survey - the whole thing was just so unnecessarily complicated. But as with others above - apart from the 16 or so Blackbirds currently in our garden, other winter thrushes on the N Norfolk coast are very thin on the ground - nothing for them to eat. Most of the hedges are now thoroughly neat and tidy and I imagin our urban visitors think this is just how they should be.

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  10. Tony,

    Sorry I didn't explain the hedge cutting thing very well in my last post, sorry.
    Try again: Before the hedge cutter, back in the good old days (ha !) all the ditches and hedges were brushed (Suffolk slang) by hand. This was mainly to clean the ditches for drainage but also tall hedges were cut to the ground (or laid sometimes but this was very rare in most areas since barbed wire was used for stock). Some of the best hedges were cut using a reciprocating blade, similar to a garden trimmer but bigger, on the back of an old Fergie or small tractor but this was very slow. At this point the modern flail head cutter hadn’t been invented. This was fine until farming hit a cliff in the late seventies, labour left the farms and hedge and ditch work went out the window. The result was that by the time the first flail cutters came in the hedges were out of control and it wasn’t at all unusual to see either hedges flailed to the ground or left to grow too tall and just cut on the sides. Most farmers knew that this was a wildlife disaster as the hedges were empty at the base with no cover. Dutch Elm disease killed a lot of hedges as they only survived if kept under 6ft otherwise the dreaded beetle took them out. Unfortunately farming struggled through the next two decades and hedge management was patchy to say the least. GWCT did a lot of work on this as and gradually farmers who had an interest in wildlife and dare I say shooting came to realise what a shocking state their hedges were in. Laying hedges, although it looks very good, doesn’t really work as it can only be done once and is really a cheap form of stock proofing (or was); what was needed was a way of thickening up the hedge base and this was by going back to the old method of cutting the hedge off at ground level and allowing it to reshoot from the stumps (copesing).
    Unfortunately the whole hedge issue is clouded by the barley baron myth of wicked farmers bulldozing hedges and creating the prairie type landscape so hated by the conservation movement. In reality it was the enclosure acts which destroyed the medieval open field system and created vast fields for livestock. You only have to look at the size of the enclosure fields in Lincolnshire and through the central midland belt to see how big these fields were, and still are. The hedge removal that did occur in the seventies was mainly on Tye blocks (common land) or in areas were the landscape had been cut out of the natural original forest (such as Sussex, Kent or East Norfolk). This lack of understanding of how the countryside has evolved over hundreds of years has led to a sort of irrational hysteria whenever anyone sees a hedge cutter ! The truth is that without hedge management there are no hedges.

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    1. Excellent explanation. However - one thing you don't mention is that although prior to Enclosure the open field system would have been as 'hedgeless' as some of the arable areas are now, there was a great deal more of the countryside unfarmed [there wasn't the technology to enable it to be farmed] and although used and not really a wilderness, it was much more of a wilderness than anything we have left today. Certainly bird species and populations were different to those of today, but on balance the non farmed areas provided alot of habitat and food for wildlife. In a way the enclosures which caused the decline of these unfarmed areas, replaced some of the lost habitat with its hedgerows. Now we have very little of either.

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    2. Julian, thanks for your detailed reply. Perhaps the answer is to trim one third of the hedges every year in rotation and leave the odd sapling to mature into a tree?

      Most stock-proof barriers round here are either electric or barbed wire fences often erected adjacent to a hedgerow, so tidiness and maybe safety could be the issue. We do have some productive/wildlife friendly hedges round here but I was unlucky in my choice of route for the survey. I think the winter thrush survey runs for two years so it will be interesting to see what happens on my patch next year.

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  11. Douglas,of course farmers have made mistakes but actually the two you describe are actually in my opinion not their fault.
    Spraying-----of course farmers used spays but were advised just like gardeners that they were safe by scientists would be my guess.
    BSE -----of which I had too much experience of.It came from Meat and Bone Meal which of course had been fed to cattle for a century or two with no troubles with it being sterilised.
    My understanding is that politicians allowed the sterilisation process to be changed from doing it in batches which ensured it was all sterilised completely to a system of continuous sterilisation that ended up with some not getting sterilised properly with catastrophic results for cattle farmers,the public has no idea of the problems and heartache suffered with us losing animals we had bred for several generations and often carrying calves.Believe me we were the biggest victims completely innocent and if it ever came out how the politicians must have given instructions to the Ministry and Defra to make us do their bidding we would not be believed.

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    1. Pesticides- Fair point, but I bet them scientist went to farmers and said "we can improve how much money you can get it's safe honest!"... it's down to the individual farmer wether they chose to use it, some didn't. I equate in more modern scenarios with GM. If with all the bad farming years this country has had recently if some scientist says try this modified crop do they say yes or no.
      The beef issue comes back to a point I've made previous, farmers are responsible for bio security on there premises, regardless if a Tory government at the time, relaxing the use of sterilisation, the farmer should say no and demand it be used!

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    2. Dennis, its my feeling in retrospect that the meat eating part of society (which includes me) have to collectively share the blame for bse. The manufactures wanted their processing costs reduced to increase profits. Politicians wanted to bow to industry pressure for ideological reasons and no doubt donations to party funds. Farmers wanted their feed costs reduced to increase profits, meat purchasing customers wanted their food costs reduced to increase spending on whatever consumer products were most important to them.

      What I learnt from the whole experience was not to buy cheap beef, eat less and to go for quality, local grass fed production.

      We each have to take responsibility for our own part and persuade others to do the same. Reorienting our food production , deintensifying it and putting the price up would be a good start and would make a big difference to farmland birds. Most farmers think this is cloud cuckoo land but the more oil and world food prices rise, the more food security issues come into prominence squeezed at the same time by a rising UK population. One solution would be to get more people back on the land growing more food allotment style around cities. That will need big changes in planning to give access to land and the more efficient use of human manure and urine as fertiliser. Plus changed regulations for tackling waste food. The countryside should be a big part of our future but such changes require carfully thought out policies. Sadly there is no sign of radical thinking on this in any of our major political parties.

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      1. "Reorienting our food production , deintensifying it and putting the price up would be a good start "

        Are we to demonise Tull, Townshend, Liebig, Haber, Quastel, Millardet, Borlaug and any other qualifying innovator for prompting the means of supporting our nutritional needs while carrying on a nice comfy life of blogging and trainspotting? While also providing buns for the Elephant. And exporting our environmental burdens to other people - who by our exploitation of their environment clearly do not matter to us.

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        1. Well said, I think.
          Environmental altruism is easy when it comes at somebody elses expense. I wish de-intensification was an option; perhaps it may be for future generations, but certainly not this one, not with so many elephants to feed.

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        2. Happy new year Filbert and Joe and heres wishing you a bumper 2013 harvest. I wasn't trying to demonise Tull or Townsend and I'm sure Liebig and Haber's contributions will always be important. Don't know who the others are. Since you are in the mood to party what do you think of this document as a proposition. Simon Fairlie's paper, Can Britain Feed Itself?

          http://transitionculture.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/CanBritain.pdf

          There are a world of possibilities out there and what happens when the current increasingly elderly generation of farmers pass on? Will we be importing replacements from eastern europe?

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          1. Phil, Happy New Year to you also. Sadly I think it is already safe to say that 2013 will not see many bumper harvests, not in terms of grain anyway.

            It was remiss of me not to acknowledge that your comment regarding local grass fed beef was spot on. Feeding grain to beef cattle makes little sense IMHO. Your are right about the endless possibilities, but what is needed is an intelligent and integrated approach to food production/land management intensive farming is not always as bad as it is portrayed.

            I have seen this article before, although it was sometime ago, perhaps I can come back with a considered reply later in the week when I'm sober. Enjoy your evening.

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  12. Stella, that's very true and I suppose the most significant unfarmed areas in Southern England at least we're the Royal Parks and the heaths. Most now suburbs of London of course !

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  13. Tony,

    We do leave the best trees out of the hedges when we coppice. The trouble is we have mile of hedges and we can only do a few hundred yards a year at best. Recently we have tried to use timber machinery to speed things up and I'm hopeful that we can do more over the next few years. The rest of the hedges we rotationally cut either biannually or longer in some cases. The trouble we have though is it takes a disproportionally greater amount of time to trim a hedge on this basis as the growth is far tougher. It can also look fairly drastic taking off three years growth at once.

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  14. The only reason many farmers enter ELS is to for it pay for two stock proof fences. What grows in between is neither here or there and certainly if little grows in plastic tubes so be it. No one checks them any more and certainly no reduction in payments.

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  15. The suitablility of hedges for rotational cutting depends very much on the species present. It was our hedge cutting contractor who brought this to my attention when we first entered countryside stewardship. He had been cutting the hedges for years and knew them better than anyone, and after years spent getting the hedges under control, I come along and ask him to let them get out of hand again. We have managed to reach some compromises on this and we are careful which hedges we choose to put in schemes. If there is a lot of hazel in the hedge for example you really don't want to leave that uncut for a year or two as you end up with some seriously thick stems to cut, whereas hawthorn is much better suited to rotational cutting. In general the best compromise we have found is to cut the top most years and rotationally cut the sides, as it is the main upright growth that produces the thickest stems. Hedges must be kept under control as the cost of dealing with them by coppicing or laying later on would be huge. Also tall hedges aren't liked by all species. Yellowhammers for example like low hedges to nest in, and grey partridges prefer nesting alongside shorter hedges as taller ones provide more lookout posts for predators.

    On the subject of timing of cutting, it is not practical to leave every hedge until say february before cutting, as there would be too many to get round in that time. Unfortunately some have to be cut when there are berries on them, but remember those berries are just being redistributed to the ground, and will benefit other species. Also early cutting in september does allow some regrowth before winter which will flower next spring rather than needing another year of growth before flowering.

    Once all the berries have gone from hedges they really do look barren this time of year, but come spring it's amazing how they come back to life again.

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    1. Great comment. As I always advise my clients, there is no such thing as the ideal hedge and that in general every farm should aim to have a range of hedge types, in differing stages of development. Some cut biennially (ideally in feb if cropping and ground conditions permit), some cut triennially, and some every year. Nobody should ever prescribe a hedge cutting regime until they have walked the hedgerow and taken account if the woody species present and the species that the hedgerows are likely to support. I have found that hedges with 3-4 years growth which support woody species such as hazel, sallow and ash are better cut with a circular saw/ disc type cutter.

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  16. Think some form of apology in order from myself Mark as I have rather taken the blog off subject and something I find I get drawn into easily. On the plus side there have been many comments.

    Douglas ---- surely in the case of BSE due to Meat and Bone meal farmers are innocent on the following counts. M and B Meal had been used for well over a century without any problems and of course farmers were not told of new sterilisation process nor indeed when farmers buy cattle food the ingredients used in those nuts not declared just the final analysis.

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    1. Quite right Dennis.

      It's the feed compounders and the slack oversight by regulators what done it. It's a sorry tale. Think OPs, sheep scab, warble fly. Think tenacious heroes like Mark Purdey and The Countess of Mar. Think fat solubility, and how the OP got from the sheep to the chicken.

      http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/the-%E2%80%98sheep-dip-lady%E2%80%99-vows-to-keep-up-the-fight-on-organophosphates/30774.article

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    2. You say it was ok for centuries, but was it? Or was it advances it veterninary/scientific technology etc that people realised it was a problem, from what I've read the disease was present in sheep and the crossed via feed into cattle, is that right or myth? If it was present in sheep then it wasn't ok for centuries. You go back 100 years and you're standing with a cow that is showing symptoms of BSE, you wouldn't know what it is and just say "It's lame etc, here's some leaches". I worked in a slaughter house Dennis (1995-97), clearing up after slaughtermen, the things that were stuffed into a cows belly to increase their weigght, ball bearings were common as were cows at different stages of pregnancy, rocks (ok some could come from grazing) that were to big to be eaten from grazing etc was appalling. It stopped me from eating beef for ever and not because of animal welfare but due to the fact it made me wonder how safe British Beef was to eat.

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  17. Andy,

    Interesting comments and you're right, the species has a major effect on how you treat/cut the hedge. Els is a one size fits all scheme for England and the hedge cutting options just don't work everywhere. As one example; on our soil type we reach saturation very quickly in the Autumn and its impossible to get round with machinery within the management pesciptions laid down; as a result a lot of hedges are either left out of Els or cut in blocks to make the most of the limited widow. It is a shame that the scheme is so badly thought out in some areas and it can be quite frustrateing at times but we take the bits that work and I still thing on balance its the right decision to stay in them where possible. Still if you design a scheme in an office without going out on the ground to see if its practical you get what you get !

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  18. BSE may have come from the scrapie in sheep but sterilising M and B MEAL had always killed it.
    Undoubtedly BSE was a new disease and my vets or myself or any vets or any farmers had ever seen anything like it in the previous 30 years and it was different to anything before or since.There was absolutely no way the symptoms could not be recognised by those in charge of their own herds.
    Looking through diary's of stockmen over the last 150 years never throws up cattle with symptoms like BSE.

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  19. To our great surprise given the paucity of thrushes on other squares recently, a 'core square' just west of Derby produced over 600 thrushes of five species today (1/1/13). They were split very roughly 200 each of redwing, fieldfare and starling plus a few blackbirds, a pair of mistle thrushes and one song thrush. Most were feeding in fields, a few in permanent sheep pasture but the majority of them in a ploughed field that had had maize in last year. It's always great to see a field full of birds like that!
    Interesting discussion re. hedge management. Round here they are either cut annually (c. 90%) or left completely uncut (c. 10%).

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