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RSPB Scotland says thanks to farmers in Angus

Last modified: 09 December 2015

Corn bunting feeding on ground

Image: Andy Hay

RSPB Scotland held a celebration event in Angus last week to thank farmers for their contribution to trying to save an iconic Scottish bird from extinction.

The corn bunting was once widespread but following rapid declines there have been several local extinctions during the last decade and now just 800 or so pairs remain in Scotland. These are mostly in east Scotland which is home to 95% of Scotland’s corn buntings.

Even in their east Scotland strongholds corn buntings suffered huge declines during the 1990s and 2000s (for example, by 83% across a sample of 30 sites). The combination of a late breeding season, a preference for nesting in growing crops and a seed diet centred on grains along with insects fed to chicks makes corn buntings especially vulnerable to modern agricultural practices.

However, farmers in Angus have taken huge steps towards changing the fortunes of these iconic birds. By next year, thanks to support from additional farmers, all corn buntings in Angus will have access to what’s known as the ‘big three’ – safe nesting places, insect-rich summer foraging habitats and winter seed food.

Yvonne Stephan is RSPB Scotland’s Corn Bunting Officer. She said: “Everyone who knows me knows how much I like corn buntings and it has been a privilege to meet farmers who share that passion. This celebration event recognises the efforts made by farmers to improve the future of corn buntings in Angus. We’ve still got a long way to go before the corn bunting’s future is secure, but the management that is currently underway is critical to their survival and it’s important to shout about this and say thank you.”

Twenty farmers in Angus were welcomed to the Meadowbank Inn in Arbroath last Thursday to celebrate the success of the Angus Corn Bunting Recovery project. The event also thanked nine volunteers who have helped with corn bunting surveys in Angus and Fife. There were opportunities to discuss Agri Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) options and applications as well as greening measures and lunch was provided giving the farmers an opportunity to talk to others involved in the project.

Gary Bruce is the Farm Manager for P.J. Stirling Farms. He said: “It was terrific news when we were told that corn buntings had returned to Windyhills Farm. We, as a farm, take our responsibility to caring for and protecting the environment very seriously. That’s why from 2007 we have planted a sward of wildflower mix along a scenic 4km footpath on our land. Obviously with our wild bird cover and working alongside RSPB Scotland in the Angus Corn Bunting Recovery Project we have and will continue to create the perfect habitat to encourage corn buntings to return year after year. We are pleased our farm is a haven for “twitchers” and birdwatchers, who come spot rare species in and around our farm”.

The Corn Bunting Recovery Project in Angus has been supported by the Angus Environmental Trust through ENTRUST’s Landfill Communities Fund. In addition to supporting habitat creation, the project aims to promote the plight of the corn bunting to a wider audience through demonstration events and interpretation.

To find out more about the Corn Bunting Recovery Project in Angus contact Yvonne by emailing yvonne.stephan@rspb.org.uk or calling 01224 624824.

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