The recovery of farmland birds is long term work-in-progress. But there is hope ahead. Go count some birds – especially when it’s not raining.
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.
Some farmers have been busy at work – you just don’t hear about it.
TTwenty years of research have shown that declines in numbers of farmland birds can be turned around Targeting and tweaking land management practices to create, or enhance, habitat that then provides shelter, food and nesting places; managing some of the predators, and even better, working in a group such as the South Wiltshire Farmland Bird Project – all pay dividends. Farmers have come together under govt funded facilitation groups while ‘farmer clusters’ have been 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 bring on the Big Farmland Bird Count: – between the 9th and 18th February go spend 30 minutes counting birds on farmland near you.