The RSPB and Natural England have responded to the disturbing decline in farmland birds and are determined make some changes right here in the heart of East Anglia in the Cambridgeshire Fens.
Skylark in song-flight - Steve Round
The publication of the latest farmland bird index (FBI) – owned by the government and developed by the British Trust for Ornithology – shows that the index of 19 species of farmland bird has declined dramatically, reaching its lowest ever level since 1970.
In light of these figures, the RSPB is delighted to have been awarded funding for a new ‘Fenland Farmland Bird Advisor’. This post is part financed through the Natural England Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund 2008-2011.
The Action Fund aims to help achieve the UK government's commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010 through supporting the recovery of priority species and habitats in England.
Simon Tonkin the RSPB’s Farmland Conservation Officer said “Rather than being the problem, the UK's farmers are the only solution to this national crisis.
"The decline of birds reliant on farming such as the skylark is deeply troubling, but we believe the solutions exist to help resolve this and, in the process, make the farming industry more sustainable and healthy.
"Thousands of far-sighted farmers are recognising this each year by joining wildlife-friendly farming schemes and we have had great success in working with farmers in the region to help recover populations of stone-curlews in the Brecks. Clearly we need to use that model and help farmers in the Fens to access agri-environment funds to help declining farmland birds.”
The advisor post will involve delivering face to face advice and agri-environment scheme support with individual farmers. It will offer a massive boost to farmland bird recovery in the fens and will focus on six key farmland species - lapwing, grey partridge, turtle dove, yellow wagtail, tree sparrow and corn bunting.
Dr Alex Nichols of Natural England commented, “Environmental Stewardship is the key mechanism for farmers to receive financial reward for providing land management practice that benefits farmland birds. Natural England is confident that the Fenland Farmland Bird Advisor will help promote the uptake of Entry Level Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship in this area and as a result, significantly, increase the farmland bird population in this nationally important stronghold.”
The RSPB Farmland Conservation Officers in the Eastern England provided one-to-one advice on a massive 12,720 hectares of land (just under one tenth of the RSPB’s own nature reserve area) between September 2007 and March 2008. This resulted in £1,787,134.50 of agri-environment money directly secured for farmers and landowners by the RSPB to deliver optimal habitat management for high priority farmland bird species.
The RSPB also offer the opportunity for farmers to become involved in the RSPB’s Volunteer & Farmer Alliance project. This project provides farmers with a free survey of the birds breeding on their land, undertaken by trained RSPB volunteers – with the results presented on a laminated map showing where on the farm the birds of conservation concern can be found.
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