Bird Life at Castle Fruit Farm 2016/17

 Image may contain: one or more people, bird, grass, sky, outdoor and natureWe are very keen to increase the biodiversity here at Castle Fruit Farm for all sorts of reasons. Firstly , orchards are a wonderful habitat and have a unique part to play in maintaining the richness of our natural world which is being challenged in so many ways – by farming practices, by the insatiable demand for houses and over enthusiastic tidiness ! We are not owners of this land but custodians and have a responsibility to tend and nurture it for future generations as well as make our living. There is happily a symbiotic relationship between good husbandry and promoting biodiversity . We need a good population of insects for pollination. We need to provide all year round sources of pollen and nectar by promoting healthy populations of wildflowers and varied hedges.

Our bird population clears the orchards of fallen and unwanted fruit as well as eating bugs and grubs which hopefully is beneficial bearing in mind that we have beneficial insect populations as well as the undesirables ! Last but not least is the joy of hearing the chacking calls of the fieldfares on a cold frosty morning like the ones we have been having , and knowing we are providing an essential feast for these long distance travellers. They have been here long before us and hopefully will continue to thrive if we maintain orchards as part of our landscape diversity. That means keep eating English fruit please ! 

Report on Ringing at Castle Fruit Farm Winter 2016 – 2017 up to 11/01/17

Birds make use of available food resources. Thrushes in particular take advantage of fruit when their preferred food of invertebrates is unavailable due to frozen ground. Whenever the ground has been frozen, we have mist netted in the orchards to get a sample of the birds present. This involves putting a number of nets up, between the rows of trees, from before first light until about ten am. The nets are checked at regular intervals and any birds trapped, extracted and taken to our base for processing. Processing involves: identifying the bird, putting a uniquely numbered ring onto a leg (If one is not already present), Ageing and sexing the bird, and taking some basic biological measurements such as wing length and weight.

The number of birds caught so far is shown in the table below. The value of the orchards for wintering thrushes is evident from the proportions of the birds caught.

85% of the Redwing caught have been birds hatched in 2016, indicating a healthy breeding population where the birds have come from with high productivity. One bird with a ring already on (called a control) has been caught. The ring was of Russian origin, and we await full details of where the ring was put on. The bird in question was hatched in 2016.


Full grown           Pulli    Recoveries            Total

Green Woodpecker                                         2                 0                 0                 2

Great Spotted Woodpecker                              2                 0                 0                 2

Robin                                                            4                 0                 0                 4

Blackbird                                                    10                 0                 0                10

Fieldfare                                                     41                 0                 0                41

Redwing                                                    399                 0                 1              400

Mistle Thrush                                                1                 0                 0                 1

Goldcrest                                                     18                 0                 4                22

Long-tailed Tit                                             19                 0                 6                25

Blue Tit                                                         7                 0                 0                 7

Great Tit                                                       1                 0                 0                 1

Jay                                                               2                 0                 0                 2

Starling                                                         2                 0                 0                 2

Chaffinch                                                      6                 0                 0                 6

Goldfinch                                                      1                 0                 0                 1

Total:                  515                 0                11              526

Why ring birds?
Bird ringing is a research tool used in the study of birds. Uniquely numbered rings are put onto birds’ legs. At the same time as the bird is ringed, biological data about the bird is collected, giving an insight into the life of the bird.

Putting a uniquely numbered ring onto a bird makes it an individual that can be recognised. By being able to recognise individuals it is possible to monitor aspects of birds’ lives such as: movements, and longevity. This allows populations of birds to be monitored and the structure of the population known. When changes occur in populations, the cause of the change may be identified, and used by conservationists to help the population.

In order to put a ring onto a bird, the bird has to be captured. This is mainly done using mist nets. The extraction and subsequent handling of the birds is a highly skilled operation, and ringers go through a lengthy training process.

For more information on ringing birds go to: