Back to Blog

Wild Corners

  • Sat 2nd Jan, 2021

On a beautiful sunny and still winters day last week I was surveying wading birds on the River Humber when I was distracted by a particularly fine-looking wild corner on the edge of a nearby field. I am always on the lookout for these wonderful places. Birds and other wildlife love them and so do I; this one was perfect. On the field boundary, wrapping around the corner was a large, wide and tall native hedge. It must have been 3 meters wide and the same high with a few young trees reaching for the sky above the hedge. The bushes were dripping with Hawthorn and Dog Rose berries; blood red jewels on the thorns. It was lush!

The Wild Corner © Richard BainesThe Wild Corner © Richard Baines

The base of the hedge drooped and merged seamlessly with tall herbs creating confusion where the field started and the hedge finished. A meter or so into the field the tall herbage was squashed by old tyre tracks which formed small puddles in the bare earth. Beyond the track were a mixture of old grasses, unharvested cereals and wild flowers from the summer, all standing tall across a wide field margin. Six meters into the field, beyond the wonderful tangle of herbage, a commercial crop had been harvested. The old stubble had been left but it hadn’t been sprayed with herbicide so many small pioneer plants such as Groundsel were still growing, flowering and seeding. I could not have designed a better wild corner, it had everything including a lot of birds! I decided to make a detailed record in my notebook of every bird in every niche.

Fieldfare in the hedge feeding on Hawthorn berries © Richard BainesFieldfare in the hedge feeding on Hawthorn berries © Richard Baines

Thrushes were bouncing in and out of the hedge, some feeding on the fruit, others in the field looking for worms. I counted 50 Fieldfare, 12 Blackbirds, six Redwing and four Song Thrush. At the base of the hedge in that wonderful misty interface between the thorns and old flowers were at least eight Dunnocks, six Robins and three Wrens.

Pied Wagtail drinking from puddles in the track © Richard BainesPied Wagtail drinking from puddles in the track © Richard Baines

Further out from the hedge bottom six Pied Wagtails were feeding and drinking from the puddles.

Yellowhammer © Dan LombardYellowhammer © Dan Lombard

Beyond the track in the tall herbs and old barley were 50 Linnets, 22 Yellowhammers, 16 Reed Buntings, 10 Chaffinch and one Brambling. The buntings and finches would occasionally get spooked and joined the thrushes in the hedge creating a mass of songbirds. Out further into the field but only 10 meters from the hedge were a small group of four Skylark. I almost forgot about the two Woodpigeons and a Magpie watching from the young trees above the hedge. I make that a total of 201 birds of 16 species. Back home I measured the hedge and field area on Google Earth; a total of 0.25 Hectares. In any reckoning, that’s a great density of birds for a small area of land.

Reed Bunting © Richard BainesReed Bunting © Richard Baines

I could go on and on, enthusing in even greater detail about how valuable this area was for each bird, but that might get a bit too eco-nerdy. Most importantly birds and wildlife love these wild patches of land and with help from farmers everywhere we could save many of our best loved birds from terminal decline. The great news is we can still find places like the one I did in our countryside, they still exist. So, what can we do to help if we aren’t farmers ourselves? It’s very easy. On our wildlife walks, if we see or know a farmer, we need to speak to them and tell them how wonderful their wild corner is for wildlife. In my experience that human contact and enthusiasm can make a big difference. If you love your local wildlife, make a new year resolution to talk to at least one farmer in 2021.  Be positive and enthuse about their ‘wild corners’. You may just be surprised at the difference this can make for these hidden places.

Richard Baines

Yorkshire Coast Nature