Seasonal benefits of farmland pond management for birds

Author(s): Lewis-Phillips, J., Brooks, S.J., Sayer, C.D., McCrea, R., Siriwardena, G., Robson, H., Harrison A.L. & Axmacher, J.C.

Published: November 2019   Pages: 11pp

Journal: Bird Study

Digital Identifier No. (DOI): 10.1080/00063657.2019.1688762

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Capsule: There is seasonal variation in the benefits that birds can take from restored farmland ponds.

Aims: To evaluate season-specific benefits of farmland pond restoration for local bird communities.

Methods: Bird communities were recorded at unmanaged overgrown and managed open-canopy farmland ponds over the breeding, post-breeding and winter seasons. Results were compared and related to seasonal variation in environmental conditions of within-pond and marginal habitats to identify predictors of local bird communities.

Results: Bird communities at managed open-canopy ponds showed a higher abundance and species richness over all seasons and displayed pronounced seasonal shifts in composition. Warblers and other specialised bird species were frequently observed at open-canopy sites over the breeding and post-breeding seasons but were generally absent from overgrown ponds. While pond management and landscape connectivity had a consistent positive influence on bird communities over all seasons, the importance of other predictors such as bramble area varied seasonally.

Conclusions: Our study highlights a key role of pond management for farmland bird conservation. In addition, the identified seasonal predictors of bird assemblages provide valuable lessons for the design of agri-environment prescriptions for farmland ponds, highlighting the importance of bramble-dominated patches and pond marginal habitat over the breeding season and of a strong connectivity between pond margins and surrounding semi-natural habitats throughout the year.

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