Monday, 27 October 2014

Our letter to The Times on the decline in farmland birds

Dear Sir

The long-term downward trend of farmland birds is indeed shocking (report October 24th).  But often, the answer is not to focus on statistics but to concentrate on the solution to help our precious wildlife.

Almost 1,000 farms and estates are members of our Grey Partridge Count Scheme and are now seeing a positive upturn in grey partridge numbers because of targeted management. An example is a remarkable grey partridge recovery project in Sussex that has helped restore wildlife to levels reminiscent of an era long before the intensification of agriculture. The restored hedgerows are now bursting with birds such as lapwing, skylarks, corn buntings, and linnets, which are all benefiting from the sympathetic management provided for grey partridges. Year-round habitats including brood rearing and over-winter cover, field margins that provide essential chick food insects and legal predator control aimed at protecting young chicks during the breeding season are the driving force behind this extraordinary wildlife revival.  At the start of the project in spring 2003 there were just 3 adult grey partridges. This spring there were 291 pairs and following a good breeding season this year, autumn counts revealed an impressive 1,654 grey partridges.

The fact that seventy per cent of English farmers are now signed up to stewardship schemes is a fantastic achievement.  However, better advice and targeted environmental schemes; to meet the ecological requirements of individual species combined with legal predator control in certain circumstances are essential to turn around the fortunes of our declining wildlife.

Dr Julie Ewald
Senior Ecologist
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

2015 Big Farmland Bird Count

The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count will be taking place between 7th and 15th February 2015. We're looking for people to spend 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm. Find out more >

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