Scotland's farmers and crofters urged to sign up for free farmland bird survey
Last modified: 23 January 2012
RSPB Scotland is inviting farmers and crofters across the country to learn more about what birds are on their land, courtesy of a free, confidential, no-string attached survey.
For the past decade, in Scotland, the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance has helped hundreds of landowners gain a better understanding of the variety of species that rely on their farms and crofts. Over 200 trained local volunteers have surveyed more than 600 farms and crofts, helping build a clearer picture of the birds in Scotland’s countryside.
Katie Berry, Volunteer & Farmer Alliance Advisory Officer, said: “Scotland’s farms and crofts play an important role in providing food and shelter for a variety of bird species. The surveys are an easy way for landowners to find out exactly what birds are using the land, from relatively common species, to rarer ones. Farmers and crofters can then use this information to help guide Scottish Rural Development Programme applications.
“This year might be the last opportunity to get a free bird survey, but places are limited so those interested in taking part should get in touch as soon as possible to find out more.”
Last year more than 140 farms were surveyed across Scotland. The average number of bird species recorded per farm was 30, with the largest number of species recorded on a single farm being 59. Amongst the most unusual and exciting sightings were crested tits and quails spotted in Easter Ross, black grouse on a farm in Perthshire and hen harriers in Dumfries & Galloway, Arran and Orkney.
Jim MacFarlane farms a 320 hectare arable farm near Foulden in the Scottish borders. “I’ve really enjoyed taking part in this project. I have a good idea of the wildlife on my farm – but the volunteers picked up an impressive 41 species. It’s really pleasing to see just how many species are benefitting from the conservation measures I’ve carried out over the years.
“Following the survey, we had a visit from the local RSPB advisor. I was unsure what to expect, but was impressed by the advisor’s knowledge and the practicality of the advice. Following our discussions, I became aware of how rare the local corn bunting population is. As such, I’m going to start sowing the RSPB’s targeted seed mix for corn buntings in my wild bird cover plots, and the RSPB are going to put up some tree sparrow nest boxes.
“I would definitely recommend other farmers get involved in this project. The RSPB gets some undeserved flak from farmers - they have provided me with a free survey and useful, friendly advice. I look forward to working with them in the future.”
Since 2010, the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance has been supported by funding from the EU Life+ Programme. For more information, to sign up for a survey, or to volunteer to carry out surveys, visit the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance webpage at www.rspb.org.uk/vandfa or phone 0131 3174100.