It looks like it could be a happier New Year for some of England’s favourite farmland birds, as land managers across the country gear up to give their local birds a vital lifeline with support from Natural England’s Environmental Stewardship scheme.
From 1st January 2013, five new wildlife-friendly Environmental Stewardship (ES) options will be available to farmers, including a new incentive to put out supplementary food for seed-eating birds - such as finches, buntings and sparrows - to help them survive over the winter. By adopting the new options in the New Year, England’s farmers will be helping wild birds to survive the ‘hungry gap’; the period between mid-winter and spring when naturally available seed food is in short supply in the countryside.
Natural England is encouraging new and current ES agreement holders to incorporate the new bird feeding option into their ELS and HLS agreements from 1st January 2013, so that birds can reap the maximum benefit this winter. With a shortage of berries, nuts and seeds already reported from many parts of the country, providing supplementary feeding could make the difference for many birds this winter.
Mike Green, Natural England’s Arable Specialist, who has been involved in designing the new option explained: “Research shows that providing a good supply of cereal, oilseed and specialised grains from mid-winter to early spring can help birds, such as yellowhammers and tree sparrows, survive the winter and enter the spring in a healthier condition. We are working to provide better quality food sources over a longer period of time and on bigger plots, but in the short-term feeding specialised grain on farm tracks during these critical months can really make a difference.”
Farmers wishing to include the new options in their agreements from the start of the new year should submit their amendment or application to Natural England by 15th December at the latest, or adopt a voluntary approach to adopting the option for this January, where it`s not practical to amend existing agreements.
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