As a member of the Advisory team here in Wales, an important part of my job is to work with farmers to promote farm management that creates and maintains habitats to benefit birds and other wildlife. Since the 1970’s, a variety of different factors have seen the 19 farmland bird indicator species, including birds such as the yellowhammer, starlings and curlew decline by 48% (http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/farming/advice/conservation/fbi/index.aspx). My job helps create partnerships between the RSPB, volunteers, farmers and landowners so that we can work together to reverse these declines.
In many cases, our partnership with a farmer begins by offering them a free farmland bird survey, a service we offer as part of the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance Project (V&FA). The V&FA began in Wales back in 2000 and since then it has gone from strength to strength, building on the positive benefits it provides to volunteers, farmers and the RSPB.
Volunteers enjoy the early morning bird song, the chance to look for birds in areas that might otherwise be inaccessible to them and the knowledge that they are using their birding skills to actively contribute to a conservation project. The farmers find out what birds they have on their farm and get a map which shows where all the birds of conservation concern were seen, and the RSPB then provide information that can help the farmer maintain or create habitats on the farm that will benefit these special birds.
As Roger Mathias, a V&FA farmer from Pembrokeshire explains “The V&FA survey highlighted that we had reed buntings. It’s great to watch them eating the wild bird seed mixture I planted specifically for them, and other birds on the farm, through my Tir Gofal Agri-environment scheme.”
At this time of year, the project is gathering pace in readiness for the survey season (April-June) and recruitment of farmers and volunteers is on-going. If you are a farmer interested in a survey, or a birder interested in taking part in the V&FA project follow this link http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/farming/vandfa/ or email me at email@example.com