The recovery of farmland birds is long term work-in-progress. But there is hope ahead. Go count some birds or dig into the positive research below.
Make no bones about it – it’s tough. After the Second World War farmers were encouraged to become more efficient (The Archers radio show was launched as a government information service for farmers), and with rapidly changing farming practices between the late 70s and early 90s, farmland birds suffered major declines.
The era of food rationing, both during and after the war, left a long shadow over an island nation keen to ensure self-sufficiency in food. Today, with access to more food we can fit in our trolleys, we now seek to reverse declines in wildlife.
There is hope as demonstrated by a slight upturn, albeit weak, in the population of some farmland birds recorded in Defra’s ‘Wild Bird Population‘ update. (See pages 8-10) and maintained in subsequent updates.
Twenty years of partnership research (full pdf below) with RSPB and GWCT have shown that declines in numbers of farmland birds can be turned around. Targeting and tweaking land management practices to create, or enhance habitat which provides shelter, food and nesting places while managing predators where required depending on the habitat within the farmed landscape. Full pdf paper here
Even better, working in a group such as the South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project pays dividends with farmers coming together under govt funded facilitation groups and ‘farmer clusters’ embraced by Natural England as a positive vehicle to help deliver wildlife at a landscape scale.
But we need to keep counting. Without measurement, it’s hard to manage. Without hearing from others, it’s hard to hope. So let’s celebrate those who have just completed their Big Farmland Bird Count – here’s till next year.