nests don't help birds recover
grey partridge, reed bunting and tree sparrow are all seriously
declining farmland Biodiversity Action Plan bird species that have
a lot more than wet spring weather and sodden nests to cope with
in their road to recovery. They need more food - all year.
birds are obviously vulnerable to May's torrential outbursts. Skylark
nests must have been washed out again and again - the RSPB's Skylark
project made us realise that just hearing the skylark singing sweetly
above our set-aside fields didn't necessarily mean they were successfully
nesting. In one wet spring and summer, we barely had a successful
brood hatch off. (right - Skylark chicks
by Juliet Hawkins)
grey partridge chicks migrate to the refuge of a relatively quiet
and dry roadside only to be scattered, motherless, by a car. To
hatch off is one thing, to keep dry and find enough to feed on is
quite another. The grey partridge, like many other birds, is hugely
dependent upon plenty of insect food in its first few weeks of life
- difficult to find in today's clean crops. 'Conservation headlands'
can significantly help farmland birds by allowing broadleaved 'weeds'
to flower along arable cropped field margins, which, in turn, support
the insects needed by young chicks - in the field or hedgerow. These,
headlands, together with 'beetle banks', grass or nectar-margins
and winter wild bird cover, grant aided by DEFRA's Countryside Stewardship
scheme, are being established by committed 'green' farmers, to improve
the all-year round bird food table.
Juliet Hawkins is
a farm conservation consultant involved in conservation projects
on her family-owned farm.