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Blueprint Unveiled

…for saving England’s farmland birds

A blueprint for saving farmland birds in England has been launched today.

For the first time all the knowledge and scientific research on halting bird decline in our countryside has been put together in one simple package of measures which can be used by every arable farmer in the country. After many months in development the Farmland Bird Package is being published as part of four new environmental advice leaflets which Natural England is distributing to farmers.

The package has received the backing of farming industry leaders and the Government as part of the recently launched Campaign for the Farmed Environment. Experts at the RSPB, Natural England, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group, on whose research and experience the package is based, say it represents the minimum needed to reverse the long term declines of farmland birds such as skylarks, lapwings and grey partridges.Mark Avery, Director of Conservation at the RSPB, said: “This package is informed by years of research both across the country and at our own Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire so it is built on a robust scientific foundation. With these measures in place on farms across the country we will be able to reverse the devastating decline in the farmland birds which have been a traditional part of our nation’s countryside for centuries. Any arable farmer in the country can use this package and wherever and whenever they do they will see an increase in farmland birds.”

Robin Tucker, Natural England’s Executive Director for National Delivery, said: “Many farmland birds - such as the skylark and yellowhammer - have suffered major declines in recent decades and need targeted support. The new Farming for Birds leaflet provides detailed advice on how ELS (Entry Level Stewardship) options can best support farmland birds in England and has an important role to play in future conservation efforts. Natural England is delighted to be working with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in producing this guide, which should be invaluable in helping farmers maximise their wide-ranging conservation efforts.”Peter Thompson, Farmland Biodiversity Advisor with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “This package is going to be invaluable for farmers because for the first time, it brings together all the essential elements needed to boost bird numbers. Our long-term research on grey partridges has shown that it is possible to restore this iconic species to its former glory when all their habitat and feeding requirements are met throughout the year. If everyone does their bit then it is possible that species like grey partridges could once again thrive in the English countryside.”

The three main measures set out in the Farmland Bird Package involve providing:

* in-field nesting habitat
* winter seed food …and
* summer insect-rich foraging areas

In-field habitats could include skylark plots – small fallow patches in fields for birds to forage – or larger lapwing plots.

Winter food can be provided either by over-winter stubble or a seed mixture.

Providing summer foraging areas involves creating flower rich field margins which attract insects.

The total amount of land that will need to be taken out of production by the farmer could be as little as three or four per cent. Farmers can take up the Farmland Bird Package as part of Entry Level Stewardship, which will ensure they receive financial recompense for taking land out of production, or they can take it up using the voluntary measures of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

4th July 2014