Farmland bird diversity monitoring

Earth Trust is involved in an exciting project with FAI Farms to monitor bird diversity on our farmland to assess soil health.

We have installed two AI bird monitors, made by Chirrup, which use a high quality microphone and AI to record and identify birdcall in fields. Throughout the month, the monitor will capture the bird sounds and a report will tell us how many birds, and which species, are using the farmland. This data will give us an indication of the overall ecosystem functioning on the farm, which is fundamentally down to the soil health.

We were selected to be part of this project which is looking at grazed fields besides the River Thames, along with two other farms near Oxford. The aim is to see how different grazing regimes affect bird diversity. One farm is set-stocked – animals in the field for a week or longer, with no electric fencing – and the other farm, managed by FAI, are using AMP grazing.

Adaptive Multi Paddock grazing (also known as mob grazing) uses electric fences to divide the field into paddocks in order to control the grazing impact of animals. The fence allows for more precise grazing and longer rest periods for the plants, which in turn helps to improve the soil structure, soil fauna, plant health and drought tolerance of the pasture.

Earth Trust’s current approach is conservation grazing – set-stocked with low stocking density for a long time (weeks to months) without splitting the field into paddocks.

The results of this project will provide a useful comparison between our current system and the AMP grazing system, helping to inform an evidence-based decision on whether we move towards this approach going forward as we transition Earth Trust Farm to regenerative agriculture.

fai bird monitoring device attached to a tree

Paul Hill, Head of Land management at Earth Trust, says:

We know that soils supports life itself and until recently, this fact was overlooked, and indeed, it is important to remember that a tablespoon of healthy soil contains more living organisms than there are people on earth.

Being able to participate in a project like this will help us to expand our knowledge and understanding of the landscapes we manage and the biodiversity found upon them.  This knowledge is key for ethical farming strategies to be developed so healthy food can be produced in a sustainable and affordable way.