John has worked as a researcher and writer throughout his life. He now concentrates on ecological surveys. He began conducting breeding bird surveys in an area of farmland in 2010 for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and shortly afterwards had the opportunity to participate in the Volunteer and Farmer Alliance for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), working with farmers on the border between Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
In 2012 he became aware that part of the green belt south of Cambridge risked being released for development. He knew that many of the threatened farmland birds were found there, and decided to draw on his experience as a surveyor to test out his feeling that the area was more favourable to farmland birds than those he had been studying. This turned out to be just the start of a journey of discovery that has already lasted for ten years.
Six threatened species of farmland birds are doing very well there; in recent years there have been: over 50 pairs of skylarks; 15 or more pairs of grey partridge; around 15 pairs of linnets and yellowhammers; 10 corn bunting territories (above left); and 2–3 pairs of yellow wagtails (above right). All are designated as ‘red list’ species of high conservation concern.
John has written up his findings from the first ten years of surveying as A haven for farmland birds available from NHBS. He will be giving a talk about the book as part of the Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival, in the Cambridge Guildhall on Friday October 14th at 3pm. Details are here.
He also publishes an annual report of his surveys which is available on the Nine Wells page.