Saturday, 26 October 2013

Not all is well down on the farm, despite many farmer's best efforts.

The Lapwing continues to decline on our farmland
The latest official figures on farmland birds have recently been released and continue to show further declines. The Farmland Bird Index – which covers 19 species reliant on the farmed countryside – has seen a five year decline of eight per cent.

Looking back over 40 years the long term decline in farmland birds is 50 per cent, however the decline has slowed in recent years.
Turtle Doves are the fastest declining species – down 95 per cent since 1970, and reports from earlier this year suggest it is the worst year ever for sightings. Other species hit hard include Lapwings, which are down 63 per cent since 1970; Corn Buntings, down 90 per cent; and Skylarks, down 59 per cent.

The overall decline has however slowed, probably as a result of many farmers targeting their Stewardship options specifically towards these farmland birds. Just over 70% of English farmers are in a Stewardship scheme of some sort which is great; however those who make best use of the options available have nearly always taken advice from a qualified farm conservation advisor. Advice is the key if conservation schemes are to be correctly integrated in with individual farming business practices, and actually deliver what these birds need.

If we are serious about turning the fortunes of these farmland birds around, Government has to make sure that payments to farmers who are taking land out of crop production to provide habitat for these beleaguered birds, continues into the future and do not get swallowed up in sweeping budget cuts.
Not all species associated with farmland are doing badly though. Ironically, two of the less popular birds with farmers are doing spectacularly well such as Jackdaws, whose numbers have increased by 140 per cent since 1970, and Wood pigeons, which are up 134 per cent.

The Wild Bird Indicator statistics also cover seabirds and woodland birds. The figures for seabirds have shown an increase of 17 per cent since 1970 although they have declined in recent years. The figures for woodland birds have shown a decrease of 17 per cent.   
The Woodpigeon population is up 134% since 1970!

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