The end of the year brings to a close a pioneering three-year project that we’ve been leading in the Fens. The big aim has been to raise awareness of nature-friendly farming in the Ouse Washes landscape, which is a particularly rich area for farmland wildlife, particularly birds.
Image: Turtle doves on machinery (rspb-images.com)
We’ve done this by working with a group of 12 farmers, whose land covers an impressive 4000 hectares, to form the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone. The zone represents a high standard of farming, both for the benefit of people and wildlife, and we’ve been shouting about this great work!
Over 2000 people have attended our activities and events: from wildlife workshops to farm walks to evening talks. Local Fenland communities have soaked up our messages about the importance of nature-friendly farming for protecting our vulnerable farmland wildlife. By getting local people to support their work, we hope that farmers’ efforts to look after sections of their land for nature will continue long into the future.
Image: (c) Gemma Wells
Also with all the political change on the horizon, we see now as a great time to stand up for nature-friendly farming and the funding that encourages it. We’ve been collecting peoples’ support by taking “Fotos For Farms” – people saying YES to nature-friendly farming.
If you’d like to help us continue our mission of raising awareness of nature-friendly farming, have a watch of our new videos and share them with your friends on social media.
And if you want to get out and about to see farmland wildlife for yourself, we’ve put together a farm walks guide for the Ouse Washes Nature Friendly Zone that can be picked up at RSPB Ouse Washes reserve visitor centre. Or if you live further away, find your own farm walk using public footpaths through farmland this winter.
With just three months until the 4th Big Farmland Bird Count, the GWCT is offering an exciting opportunity for those farmers who are thinking of taking part to book on to a farmland bird identification training session. If you’re a farmer and not confident about telling a Tree sparrow from a House sparrow this course could be for you.
Jim Egan of the GWCT comments; “If you can’t name every bird you see on your farm, the 20 ID days across the UK to help farmers recognise them. With days between 9 January to 3 February they are run by a farmland bird expert, along with a host farmer. By the end of the ID day you should be able to recognise the top 20 bird species you can expect to see on your land over the winter period. In addition, a colour ID guide is provided to those who attend, with a focus on birds that are harder to identify. I would say to anyone thinking about taking part – do it. Get out and enjoy the birds on your farm and give us the opportunity to shout about the great work you’re doing.”
Jim continued to say “Over 970 farmers took part in 2016, recording 130 species of birds across approximately 900,000 acres. This year we are aiming to at least double the number of people taking part. So get trained and give the count a go.”
Special offer vouchers for seed mixes that will be given to each participant have been kindly provided by Syngenta & Kings and BASF Plc & Limagrain UK.
Graham Hartwell, Environmental Stewardship Manager UK/Ire at BASF Plc commented; “The continued success of the BFBC is due to the interest and commitment of increasing numbers of farmers to show the wider farming industry what can be achieved from some small changes to their farm management. Many new participants are inspired from the identification days where understanding the needs of farmland birds and learning that simple management changes can help support many species. The experience of learning how to help each species is a positive step forward. Just how small and spectacularly coloured our bird species are, are just two of the learning points that can be experienced on an ID Day, and change many supporters approach to both habitat management and talking about their farms and the wildlife they support."
The 2017 ID Days are:
January 11th - Shropshire 17th - Essex 18th - West Midlands 20th - Nottinghamshire 23rd - Perthshire 24th - Cornwall 24th - Hertfordshire25th - County Durham26th - Northern Ireland 30th - Aberdeenshire
February1st - Somerset2nd- North Yorkshire2nd- Wiltshire2nd -West Sussex 3rd - Norfolk 3rd- Leicestershire 3rd- Thetford3rd – Oxfordshire
Feedback from those who attended last year was very positive, with comments such as “great day – inspired to do more habitat enrichment”, “brilliant day, learnt a lot,” and “very informative and worthwhile event,”.
The ID days cost £10 per person and places sold out very quickly last year. For more information please visit https://www.gwct.org.uk/farming/big-farmland-bird-count/farmland-bird-id-days/
GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count is generously sponsored by BASF and delivered in partnership with the FWAG Association, LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), NFU and CLA.
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