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    Nature of Farming Award for Farmers Helping Wildlife
14/12/07

The RSPB has joined forces with BBC Countryfile magazine to launch a new competition to highlight the work that farmers are doing for wildlife.

Yellowhammer by Tom Marshall

yellowhammer

The Nature of Farming Award will reward farmers for providing the ‘big three’ – the three essentials farmland birds need to thrive.

A total of £2,400 is up for grabs for the winner and seven regional champions. The national winner will be chosen next autumn with the top prize of £1,000 and other awards, being presented at a dinner in early 2009.

An expert panel will draw up a shortlist of four farmers in July and the winner will be chosen by an online public vote.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, Head of Conservation Advice at the RSPB, said: “Farmers are at the frontline of conservation. Their decisions determine how welcoming to wildlife their farms are. This award will showcase the very best, championing the vital conservation role farming can play.

“Farmland bird declines started several decades ago. Whilst species like skylarks, lapwings and corn buntings have benefited immeasurably from the actions of individual farmers, across the UK they are still struggling and desperately need more help.

“We’re hoping that this award will encourage more farmers to get involved and make a real difference to these birds’ fortunes.”

For further information and to request an entry form for the Nature of Farming Award, email: nature-farming@rspb.org.uk or call 01767 680551. The closing date for entries is April 2, 2008

The big three - the three necessities of life for farmland birds - are:

Food in winter
Winter stubbles, weedy root crops or special mixtures of seed-rich plants all provide the seeds that many birds need to survive the winter. Others birds rely on berries but these berries are only available if hedgerows are cut only once every two or three years, in late winter.

Food in spring
With hungry chicks to feed, adult birds must have somewhere to find insects and areas where wildflowers can grow and damp areas of pasture can both increase insect numbers. Birds including yellowhammers, corn buntings and grey partridges will benefit.

Nesting sites
Whether in the hedgerows and ditches or the centre of the fields, a safe nest site is critical to the survival of many birds on farmland. Well-managed margins – edges of fields allowed to grow wild - and small, unsown patches in arable fields called skylark plots, offer a lifeline for a range of farmland birds.

The Nature of Farming Award replaces the RSPB/Jordans Operation Lapwing competition, which has run for five years.

Dr Moorcroft said: “Operation Lapwing was a great success but only represented a small proportion of the conservation efforts of the 4,500 farmers we work with each year. The new award gives all farmers helping wildlife the opportunity to take part.”

Cavan Scott, Editor of BBC Countryfile, said: “The Nature of Farming Award is a fantastic way for BBC Countryfile readers to acknowledge the contribution farming makes to maintaining our countryside’s landscape and wildlife.”

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