The Campaign for the Farmed Environment had its first anniversary in November. The aim of the campaign is to promote voluntary management of farmland to 're-capture' set-aside benefits from a relatively small area of well located and positively managed land. It unites the key industry organisations - NFU, CLA, LEAF, FWAG, AIC, AICC, CAAV and GWCT- who are working in partnership with Defra and its agencies, Natural England and the Environment Agency, and the RSPB in order to deliver advice to farmers on how they might best retain and increase the environmental benefits provided by their farmland in a targeted and agronomically sensible way.
The campaign concentrates on three main themes:
1) Farmland Birds
2) Farm Wildlife
3) Resource Protection
Find out how we are meeting these objectives at Hope Farm
The start of another summer at Hope Farm. Grey partridge calling, skylark singing, yellowhammer displaying. It looks as though it could be another good summer count if the wintering birds stay throughout the summer. Of course only time will tell how well we do this summer once our research staff complete their summer bird monitoring program. This starts in late March and finishes at the end of June. The first migrants have just arrived with several chiffchaffs and a blackcap calling in the orchard. No doubt in the next few weeks, numerous swallows, whitethroats and the occasional turtle dove will be recorded.
I wonder if there is any chance of a cuckoo this year. This is one bird we see far less often over recent summers. The warm weather in the last few days has encouraged some early butterflies, with four species recorded on our first transect last week. These were peacock, brimstone, comma and red admiral.
The bird numbers this winter were incredible no doubt helped by the cold, snowy, weather. During the snow they were attracted to areas of wild bird cover. From the bird’s perspective this crop was essential. These areas, which are specifically designed to provide over winter seed food, normally don’t attract large flocks until December. Not this year. I had never seen such large numbers, at Hope Farm, on such small areas. They included 300 skylark, 250 yellowhammer, 150 linnet and 50 reed buntings. There were also over 50 grey partridge wandering around the stubbles. A fantastic bird spectacle.
In general winter bird numbers were great with record counts in every month. Staff and volunteers completed monthly counts between October and March. This involves them walking around the boundary and centre of each field. Numbers of the common farmland species such as skylark, yellowhammer and linnet maintained early promise. Interestingly the counts also recorded two firsts for the farm when one observer caught sight of two waxwing and a Jack Snipe.
The crops are growing well and it will not be long before we are reporting another harvest. This year the establishment and management of the crops have been relatively routine for the contractor. This included a comprehensive autumn grass weed programme. Following a cold winter we moved into a dry March.
The spring beans were sown in mid February using a brand drill recently bought by the contractor. This machine is very impressive, moving the soil, sowing the seed and then compacting the soil all in one pass. It is amazing to see the speed and precision with which they were able to establish the crop. The wheat and oilseed rape have received the first batch of fertilizer. The only work left to be completed is establishment of some wild bird cover which should be sown in the next couple of weeks.