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14 April 2014

Praise for farmers as skylarks soar again

Skylarks were seen by 37% of farmers despite being on the red list of threatened wildlife Getty Images Ben Webster Environment Editor

Skylarks, yellowhammers and song thrushes are recovering from long-term decline on farms that make efforts to protect wildlife, a survey has found. They are among 11 bird species on the “red list of threatened wildlife that were recorded by !"" farmers who volunteered to count birds on their land for half an hour in #ebruary. The most common species spotted was the blackbird, seen by $% per cent of farmers, followed by wood pigeons &$' per cent( and crows &%% per cent(. Starlings, which have been declining in )ritain since the early 1*$"s, were seen by +" per cent of farmers, skylarks by ,% per cent, yellowhammers by ,+ per cent and song thrushes by ,- per cent. .nly one lesser spotted woodpecker was recorded, while there were two wa/wings and three hen harriers. The 0ame 1 2ildlife 3onservation Trust said that it had carried out the survey, which involved a selfselecting sample of farmers, partly to counter claims by green groups that farmers were doing little to protect birds. 4im 5gan, a spokesman for the trust, said that the survey participants tended to be farmers who had taken steps to protect birds, and the survey showed the benefits of their actions. “The good farmers are providing winter feed 6for birds7, growing wild seed mi/es and providing good sources of pollen and nectar to encourage insects. 8e said that other practices that helped birds included leaving margins and corners of fields uncultivated, leaving stubble unploughed and planting seeds by drilling rather than tilling. 8e added that some wildlife groups had over-emphasised the decline in farmland birds.

“9 lot of environmental :0.s fund-raise on bad news. They say, ;<ook what farmers have done, isn=t it bad>= That puts people off. ?r 5gan said that the survey was an attempt to encourage more farmers to take action to protect birds by showing the benefits of what could be achieved. “#armers have to make the most of their productive land because they have a business to run and a world to feed. )ut on nearly all arable farms there is , to + per cent of land that is not particularly productive and can be left for wildlife. ?eanwhile, little terns, one of )ritain=s rarest seabirds, which return each 9pril to breed on about '" beaches around the country, are to be helped to adapt to coastal erosion under a new partnership including the @SP), :atural 5ngland and the :ational Trust. The scheme will seek to prevent little terns from being disturbed at their breeding sites. Susan @endell-@ead, the @SP)=s little tern proAect manager, saidB “<ittle terns need undisturbed sand and shingle beaches to nest with a plentiful supply of small fish Aust offshore. These beaches can be Cuickly altered by rising seas and floods. “Dn the past, the areas lost to flooding or storms would be offset by new areas of sand or shingle thrown up by the sea. This is now being prevented by hard sea defences and other man-made developments. The result means beaches are getting narrower and the little terns are Cuickly running out of space.