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Farmers aid boost in cirl bunting numbers

The latest population survey of one of Britain’s most threatened farmland birds has revealed an increase in numbers to over a thousand pairs.


Abby   Kellett

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The cirl bunting – one of Britain’s most threatened farmland birds – has continued its trail blazing comeback from the brink of extinction after the UK population reached more than 1000 pairs, according to the latest national survey by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

 

The dramatic rise in the population of the cirl bunting – a small sparrow-sized farmland bird – to 1078 pairs comes at a time when many other farmland birds continue to struggle.

 

The jump in numbers follows a 25-year project between the RSPB and local farmers in the South West of England which helps provide year round food supplies and habitat for the threatened species.

 

Under the Cirl Bunting Recovery Programme, led by the RSPB, advisers worked with farmers to help them take up Countryside Stewardship Schemes.

 

Options include growing spring barley that after harvest is left as weedy stubble to provide seed food during the colder months and planting margins of grassland at the edge of their arable fields, which provides insects and spiders for summer food.

Overview

  • Latest population survey of one of Britain’s most threatened farmland birds has revealed an increase in numbers to reach the major milestone of over a thousand pairs

 

  • Cirl buntings were on the brink of extinction only a quarter of a century ago with barely more than 100 pairs left in Britain

 

  • Dramatic rise in numbers down to 25-year recovery project between the RSPB and local farmers in the South West of England to help manage their land in a nature friendly way

 

  • Success of recovery project shows what can be achieved when farmers, conservationists work together for nature

Conservation and farming working together

Mel Squires, south west regional director at the NFU, says: “Success for the cirl bunting has not been through chance but a true, committed partnership for 25 years between conservationists and farmers working together.

 

See also: Managing conservation practically and profitably together

 

“It has been a relentless focus on delivering a combined objective where all have wanted the same outcome – a positive and resilient future for this fantastic bird – and a great example of making conservation work in tandem with a modern farming setting.”

 

Birds such as linnets, skylarks and yellowhammer are also known to benefit from a boost in stubble winter food sources, and species like brown hares, greater and lesser horseshow bats and rare arable plants are being seen more in fields once again.

 

Chris Sutton-Scott-Tucker, owner of Great Combe Farm in Devon, says: “The project made it easy to use a Countryside Stewardship Scheme to manage my land to help wildlife without seeing a drop in my farming income. Since then I have enjoyed seeing all different types of wildlife making a home on the farm and I look forward to continuing with the RSPB in the future.”

 

To find out more visit: www.rspb.org.uk/cirlbuntingstory

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