Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Milestone for pioneering farmland bird project

10th Anniversary for Volunteer and Farmer Alliance

RSPB volunteers have walked four and a half times round the world over the past ten years whilst helping farmers identify threatened birds on their land. The Volunteer and Farmer Alliance is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month with a reception at the House of Lords on Wednesday May 6, attended by environment minister Hilary Benn and top conservation and farming industry figures.

Since 1999, the project has arranged for volunteers to go onto farms across the UK to carry out free bird surveys for farmers. The RSPB has invested £2.5million in the scheme; more than 4,250 farms have been surveyed; and volunteers have given up 77,000 hours of their time, walking the equivalent of 4.5 times round the earth in the process.RSPB director of conservation, Mark Avery, is one of those who has donned his wellies and binoculars to carry out farmland bird surveys around his home in Northamptonshire.

“Here at the RSPB we are extremely proud to be celebrating the tenth anniversary of this fantastic project,” he said.“The Volunteer and Farmer Alliance is all about helping farmers to help birds. If a farmer knows which birds he has on his land then he has a better chance of saving them. Armed with this valuable information our experts can provide advice on how to manage land to protect threatened wildlife – and in East Yorkshire alone this advice has resulted in farmers receiving £2.8million for conservation projects.”NFU President Peter Kendall said: “On behalf of the thousands of farmers who have hosted visits from the RSPB's Volunteer and Farmer initiative I would like to add the NFU's voice in celebrating 10 years of the alliance. As a result of the effort of volunteers many farmers have gained real understanding of the range of birds that live on their farms and have therefore been able to make a real difference in creating the correct habitat for farmland birds. The Alliance is a great example of how working together can forge the interest of the bird watcher with those of the farmer.”

The pioneering scheme has begun to inspire similar projects in other countries with Sweden and Portugal both setting up their own version of the Volunteer and Farmer Alliance.

“I want to say a big thanks to the thousands of farmers who have welcomed our volunteers onto their land and shown great enthusiasm in supporting this special project,” Mark added. “We also owe a debt of gratitude to our army of volunteer surveyors who have spent the last ten years getting up at the crack of dawn and heading out into the countryside while the rest of us are still snoozing in our beds to carry out this vital work. Their dedication and passion has been the foundation stone of the project.”

4th July 2014