News From the Farm | May 16, 2016

We recently had a visit from researchers from Washington State University on a project to understand the effect that farm landscapes have on bird diversity. While we love all the birds that live around Full Belly Farm, we often have to work hard to protect our fruit from them. So we have a bit of a dual relationship with the birds and we are always interested in learning more about them.

We have excerpted below from notes provided by the researchers after a few hours of studying the Full Belly birds:

“The bird surveys were very interesting. We detected 47 unique species after sampling 15 points throughout the farm and stratifying the points by habitat type (orchard, livestock, vegetables, creek, etc.) This is the highest number of unique species on the farms we’ve sampled so far. Your farm had far more landscape heterogeneity than other farms. Landscape heterogeneity is known to be important in attracting some species of birds. You’ve also got great habitat for the birds throughout, with thick vegetation located at different heights (ground level for ground foragers, shrubs for edge associated species, thick groups of tall trees for forest species, the creek for marsh birds). 

“The hedgerow near the office/broccoli patch had 8 active Brewer’s blackbird nests in it. And there were multiple starlings and a Bullock’s oriole nesting in the palms. We got some poop samples from in and around these nests, which will hopefully  give us an idea of their diet on the farm.

“We’re also taking a look at insect communities in relation to bird biodiversity. We found moderate aphid abundances on the broccoli (7-169 cabbage aphids and 0-18 peach green aphids per plant). There were a few parasitoid wasps keeping the aphids in check (0-2 per plant). Interestingly, Full Belly had some of the highest spider densities we’ve seen, both in the visual surveys and the pitfall traps, with 1-3 per plant. Spiders are generally helpful herbivore predators, so that’s a good sign!

“We are super excited to analyze the data and investigate how important the surrounding landscape and on-farm management practices are for bird diversity.  We are hoping to observe general patters emerging across farms, states, species and seasons. We’re hoping to do a couple of surveys each year for another two years.”