Farming

Farming

Farming
Welcome to this group for all farmers and anyone with an interest in farming. Read our blog to see how we're working with farmers and to find out where you can meet us at events.

Farming

Find out more about how we're working with farmers and others to provide space for farmland nature in the landscape. Join in the discussion on farming issues and share tips for wildlife-friendly farming.
  • Survey season underway at Hope Farm

    The 2018 season of spring and summer surveys are in full swing at Hope Farm.

    Read the latest update on the farm monitoring on our Saving Species’ blog here

  • Helping to bring curlews back from the brink: Part 2

    Curlews are one of the UK’s most-loved birds and for many farmers and crofters its arrival heralds the start of spring. But sadly, this wading bird is in serious trouble; in the past two decades the UK breeding population has halved, with the most serious losses in Wales and Northern Ireland.

    The only chance they have for survival is if farmers and crofters make more space for them on their land and are given the necessary financial support to do so. Yesterday, we heard how farmers in England and Scotland are helping curlews. Today, we hear from some of those fighting to bring the species back from the brink of extinction in Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Curlew chick. Image: Tim Melling

    Sorcha Lewis farms in the Elan Valley, Mid Wales with her husband and two children. She is passionate about promoting upland wildlife on farmland and is on the steering group of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

    “Every summer there are a few birds we actively wait for to return to signal the true start of spring, and these birds bring life to the hills. These are the skylark, house martin, cuckoo and the curlew. The haunting sound of the curlew calling is a sound like no other but we worry that this is a sound our children may not hear in their future.

    I think we really need to take some bold steps to ensure a future for the curlew. There is no doubt how vulnerable curlew chicks are to predators and the numbers are not enough to provide an increased survival ratio of youngsters. Trying to stabilise the population is what is needed in the immediate future. Many of our birds come back year after year to their loyal breeding grounds, but these parents are getting older and there is concern there are no future replacements.

    We need to encourage, support and educate good curlew management and see if we can reverse the spiral of potential extinction within Mid Wales (and wider) of this enigmatic species.”

    Tony Davies farms at Henfron, which is also situated in the Elan Valley.

    He says: “It is always exciting to spot curlews as they visit the reservoir banks, marshy rough grazing and moorland on my farm. Instantly recognisable by their unique curved beak and distinctive call. I believe that my mowing regime on the mountain, combined with managed grazing has encouraged the curlew to visit.  With more targeted management I am sure we can improve the habitat to help increase curlew numbers.”

    John Jones farms in Betws Y Coed in the Conwy Valley, Wales.
    He says: “The curlew is one of our most iconic species and it always lifts my spirits when I hear it. I'm very proud of the work we do for this rare bird, but the Government must develop policies that are encouraging and rewarding farmers to do more work for our rare birds."


    Curlew in flight. Image: Tim Melling


    David Bonner farms in partnership with his brother in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. They are working with the RSPB on its Curlew Recovery Project.

    “We’ve always had curlews. There was a good lot of years when they sort of disappeared but they are starting to come back again with the work we’re doing with the RSPB.

    The main change we’ve made on our land to help curlews is to keep the rushes under control, which opens the ground up so curlews can nest and see the predators coming. We’ve also put in a couple of scrapes so they can feed on the water.

    The improvements we are making for the curlews is also good for the sheep, too. It gives us a bit more grazing for the sheep. So, it’s good for the farm and it just takes a couple of days a year to cut the rush and check the scrapes.” 

    Hear more from David about how he is helping wildlife on his farm on this month’s RSPB podcast.

    It’s not just farmers and crofters who can help the curlew, you can to. Find out how here.  

  • Helping to bring curlews back from the brink: Part 1

    Curlews are one of the UK’s most-loved birds and for many farmers and crofters its arrival heralds the start of spring. But sadly, this wading bird is in serious trouble; in the past two decades the UK breeding population has halved, with the most serious losses in Wales and Northern Ireland.

    The only chance they have for survival is if farmers and crofters make more space for them on their land and are given the necessary financial support to do so. Luckily, there are already some fantastic farmers and crofters helping to restore the fortunes of the curlew.

    Curlew on a wall. Image: Tim Melling

    In today’s blog we hear from some of those in England and Scotland who are trying to bring the curlew back from the brink; tomorrow, we’ll be finding out how the curlew has inspired farmers in Wales and Northern Ireland, the two countries where the bird is most at risk.

    Neil Heseltine farms Hill Top Farm in Malham, North Yorkshire where he was born and raised. Passionate about environmentally sustainable agriculture, he is on the steering group of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.

    He says: “The curlew is one of my favourite birds; it’s always good to see them and hear their distinctive call. They are synonymous with the Yorkshire Dales and there are a good number of them around here so I think we might be bucking the national trend.  

    “There are quite a few nesting curlews on the hilly parts of the farm but my big aim is to get them breeding successfully in my hay meadow, which I am managing in a traditional way to help waders. I feel there has been a reduction in the number of curlews in my enclosed farmland and I want to get them back.    

    “I’m closing the meadow up in May and won’t be mowing until mid-August so I can be certain that any chicks have fledged. I would urge other farmers to push back their cutting dates until July or later if possible as this could play an important role in reversing the fortunes of the curlew. ”

    Image: www.rspb.images.com

    In Shetland, crofter Hazel McKenzie, uses traditional agricultural methods to maintain curlew numbers, together with whole range of other wildlife that has been present on her land for the past five decades.

    ‘’Our croft, Aithsetter, has been in environmentally friendly schemes since 2000.  We have been restoring our peatland to maintain numbers of waders and other birds too.  Our newly installed wader scrapes have been popular with oystercatchers and curlews and by taking part in the RSPB bird counts, we monitor what is happening on our croft. We take care to look after our croft - growing some traditional crops like Shetland kale and neeps and these encourage the bird life. 

    “Our traditional meadows are a great habitat for wildlife and the flora & fauna that I found there 45+ years ago, is still there.’’

    Hamish McIntosh runs Milton Farm in the Scottish Highlands village of Tomintoul.

    ‘’I love to hear the sound of the curlew on the farm, which is the sign that spring is on the way. It’s a helpful reminder when there is still snow on the ground in Tomintoul!  I have been managing the rushes on the farm through agri-environment schemes for a number of years and I’m now involved in the Peesie project  - funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund - to help ensure the curlew and other waders keep coming back to the farm for future generations to enjoy.’’

    It’s not just farmers and crofters who can help the curlew, you can to. Find out how here.