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Stackyard News Feb 06

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Becky Fixes It For Pennine Farmers To Have An A-Wader Day

The hill farms of the North Pennines are full of the songs of nesting birds in spring and summer, but where do they go in the winter?

Pennines farmers at Campfield
Pennines farmers at Campfield

That’s the question that local farmers have been asking RSPB Pastures for Plovers project officer, Becky Cash. So Becky recently ‘Fix’d It’ for a group of local farmers to find out where ‘their’ birds go in the winter.

The RSPB laid on a coach trip from moor to shore so that a party of Pennines farmers could see some of the upland birds in their winter quarters. The group travelled from Alston to the RSPB’s Campfield Marsh nature reserve on the south Solway. At Campfield, they took a guided tour around the site and watched the many different types of wading birds that spend the winter there. RSPB warden, Dave Blackledge, explained the habitat management work that is carried out on the reserve.

Wading birds that nest on the moors avoid the worst of the upland weather by heading for the coast in winter. Birds from the North Pennines, such as lapwing, curlew and redshank, are joined on the estuary by tens of thousands of other wetland birds that come to the Solway from the Arctic.

One of the farmers who went on the trip was Steven Coxford Adams from Whitfield. He said: “I had been meaning to go to the Solway for ages to see the waders on the coast, and it was fantastic that the RSPB laid on this trip so that I could finally get there.”

Becky Cash added: “The pastures of the North Pennines are alive in the spring and summer with nesting birds, but in the winter time most of the birds head for the seaside. This trip was a great way for local farmers to find out where ‘their’ birds go in the winter months. It was also an opportunity for the RSPB to say thank you for all the work that farmers have been doing to help nesting birds.”

Habitat management work to help the birds is being carried out at both ends of their migration route. In the North Pennines, the RSPB’s Pasture for Plovers project has helped raise awareness of the value of managing farmland to help the breeding birds by organising a programme of farm events and talks. Project Officer, Becky Cash, has been working with more than 120 local farmers and is available to provide free advice on applications for the Government’s Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

The RSPB Pastures for Plovers project is supported by Leader+, The Countryside Agency, English Nature, The Northern Rock Foundation and the North Pennines AONB Partnership. Project Officer, Becky Cash, is available to offer free advice and information to local farmers about management practices that will maintain and enhance the value of their land for wildlife. Interested farmers can contact the Pastures for Plovers project on 01697 746703

The North Pennines is of both national and international significance for the populations of wading birds that breed in the area. The RSPB estimates that upwards of 22,000 pairs of wading birds breed in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) making this the most important upland area in England for these birds. Birds such as lapwing, curlew, redshank and golden plover still find a place to nest in the North Pennines, despite undergoing alarming population declines in other parts of the country.

Future Pastures for Plovers events include:

Tuesday 28 February, 10.30am - The Otter Trust, Bowes
Management for waders and black grouse

Thursday 2nd March, 7pm - Edmundbyers Village Hall
Illustrated talk about the birds of the North Pennines

Tuesday 14th March, 10.30am - Melmerby Village Hall and Broadmeadows Farm
Managing land for wading birds and opportunities in the Higher Level Scheme

Thursday 23rd March, 10.30am - Langdon Beck/Herdship Farm
Meadow management for waders

link RSPB Launches Project To Help Cumbria's Wetland Birds
link New Future for Farming and Wildlife
link Five Compete In Biodiversity Excellence Award Final

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