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EU LIFE+ Farmland Bird Project

Volunteer & Farmer Alliance: Brian Matthews (farmer) and David McReedy (volunteer)

Image: Andy Hay

This project was completed in September 2013. However, as well as having a major impact in its own right, it enabled us to develop our current way of working with farmers.

Farming provides a huge opportunity to secure the future for many birds of conservation concern. Between January 2010 and September 2013, much of our advice and support for farmers to enable them to do this was funded through the EU LIFE+ Programme as part of our EU Birds Directive on Farmland Project. This included free practical advice on helping wildlife, farmland bird surveys and celebrating farmers giving nature a home through the Nature of Farming Award.

The project has made an important contribution to the implementation of the EU’s Birds Directive in the UK. This directive is one of Europe’s two main pieces of conservation legislation, and, as its name suggests, focuses exclusively on birds. It is intended to protect all wild birds in the EU, for example by requiring Member States to set up Special Protection Areas for vulnerable species and by regulating activities such as hunting, trapping and trading. Its overall aim is to ensure that all wild birds in Europe retain ‘favourable conservation status’, or regain this status if they have lost it.

Project objectives

  • Our advice and support for farmers, funded by EU LIFE+, had three overarching project objectives to be achieved by December 2012:
  • To support at least 3,540 farmers through free bird surveys, farm events and The Nature of Farming Award scheme.
  • To raise awareness of at least 7,040 members of the general public in wildlife-friendly farming through voting for the Nature of Farming Award winners and participating in the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance
  • To inform and empower more than 120,000 farmers and crofters annually through articles in the farming, national and regional press
  • To engage with more than 3 million members of the general public annually through national and regional press coverage

Work planned or underway

*work on this project has now ended

Volunteer & Farmer Alliance

We planned to match 680 pairs of farmers and volunteers for surveys each year, over the three years of the project. Each volunteer was given a ‘participation pack,’ and each farmer received a laminated map, species list and farm-specific advisory pack after their survey. Some farmers also had a more detailed follow-up advisory visit after the survey. Workshops for farmers and volunteers were held annually, on demonstration farms. Through the project, we aimed to provide conservation management advice on over 15,000 ha of farmland each year. Feedback from farmers was used throughout the project to improve the advice and services offered through a simple questionnaire sent out with our Field of View newsletter.

The Nature of Farming Award

This competition was developed to celebrate wildlife-friendly farming and promote the hard work that the winning farmers were doing for wildlife on their farms.

The competition was open for entries throughout the year, with the cut off for each year typically being at the end of April. Farms were judged locally, with a winner and Highly Commended farmers identified in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and five regional winners in England (South West, South East, Midlands, East and North).

A public vote then ran throughout the summer to identify the UK winner. This enabled us to promote the importance of wildlife-friendly farming to 3 million people each year through our targeted media work and membership. Over the course of the project, almost 60,000 votes have been cast demostrating widespread public support for wildlife-friendly farmers.

Events

Agricultural shows and events were a key opportunity to promote our advice and support throughout the life of the project. We will continue to attend key events in the year even though the project is now finished. See our events page for details of some of the places where you can come and meet us.  

We also delivered a conference in Brussels in November 2012 where we presented the results of the project to others across Europe who may wish to develop similar projects in the future. This was attended by farmers, volunteers and staff involved in the project as well as representatives from BirdLife partners, agricultural and conservation organisations from the UK and Europe.

Materials

We have lots of advisory materials on identifying and wildlife and what you can do to support the species on your farm, including advisory sheets, bird guides and newsletters. The project newsletter, Field of View, can be downloaded from this page. Visit the Advice for Farmers pages to download our advisory sheets on specific habitats and species, or contact your local advisor to discuss your individual requirements.

Results

Volunteer & Farmer Alliance

Highlights:

2010 - 1,000 farmers requested surveys, and we were able to provide 683 thanks to the 836 volunteers engaged with the project. Advisors made follow-up visits to 159 of these, covering 47,222 ha of land

2011 - 879 farmers requested surveys, and we were able to provide 738 thanks to the 885 volunteers engaged with the project. Advisors visited 430 farms, covering 82,766ha of land

2012 - 770 farmers requested surveys, and we were able to provide 678 thanks to the 785 volunteers engaged with the project. Advisors visited 441 farms, covering 89,447ha of land

The Nature of Farming Award

Highlights:

2010 - 134 farmers entered the 2010 Nature of Farming Award. Over 6,000 votes were cast by the general public to decide the winner 

2011 - 317 farmers entered the 2011 Nature of Farming Award, which was sponsored for the first time by The Telegraph. Over 22,000 votes were cast by the general public to decide the winner

2012 - 420 farmers entered the 2012 Nature of Farming Award, sponsored by The Telegraph. Over 17000 votes were cast by the general public to decide the winner

2013 - 121 farmers entered, and over 13,000 people voted for the 2013 winner. Media coverage included Shooting Times, The Telegraph and numerous local and regional press, local television and radio.

Events

Demonstration events were held throughout the project:

In 2010, 21 workshops were held at demonstration farms, with 825 farmers attending

In 2011, 28 workshops were held at demonstration farms, with 725 farmers attending

In 2012, 43 workshops were held at demonstration farms, with 929 farmers attending

Project communications and media coverage

General media coverage of the project has appeared in The Telegraph (c.840,000 readers), Country Life and the RSPB ‘Birds’ magazine (2.1 million readers), as well as a long list of regional and specialist papers, farming press and both national and regional television and radio. 

The project newsletter, Field of View, was sent out annually to the following:

2010 - 6,969 people received the project newsletter

2011 - 7719 people received the project newsletter

2012 - 8431 people received the project newsletter

2013 - 8540 people received the final project newsletter 

New pilot projects

Following a 9 month extension being granted in 2013, the following objectives were added to the project:

  • Provide direct advice and monitoring in core areas for farm wildlife across the UK

As a result, the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance did not run in 2013, but during the the life of the project, 2,183 surveys were delivered through this activity. In 2013, we launched our new areas of focused advice across the UK, where we continue to offer farmland bird surveys only in a more targeted way. This new approach will allow us to monitor the progress of bird populations on the farm following advice on practical conservation management. 

  • Produce a pilot toolkit of environmental advice and support for English arable farmers with a view to developing similar resources across the UK

We're working alongside agricultural and environmental organisations to develop the Farm Wildlife partnership. This partnership brings together agricultural and conservation expertise to provide the advice that farmers really want - simple, integrated advice that makes sense for their business as well as the environment. New web and printed resources will be available to support best practice environmental management on farmland across the UK. 


Video

Downloads

Supporting wildlife-friendly farmers and delivering the Birds Directive

Supporting wildlife-friendly farmers and delivering the Birds Directive

995Kb, PDF

An assessment of the EU LIFE+ Farmland Bird Project and the impacts it has had.

Date: 21 February 2014

Download

Final report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

Final report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

1.18Mb, PDF

A report on project activities running from 01/01/2010 to 30/09/2013

Date: 21 February 2014

Download

Progress report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

Progress report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

168Kb, PDF

Covering the project activities from 01/10/2011 to 31/12/2012

Date: 3 January 2014

Download

Mid-term report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

Mid-term report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

222Kb, PDF

Covering the project activities from 01/01/2010 to 30/06/2011

Date: 19 March 2012

Download

Inception report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

Inception report: Promoting the importance of the EU Birds Directive in conservation management on farmland

153Kb, PDF

Covering the project activities from 01/01/2010 to 31/08/2010

Date: 19 March 2012

Download

Field of View 12 - Volunteers (Welsh)

Field of View 12 - Volunteers (Welsh)

861Kb, PDF

Volunteer edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2013 season, in Welsh.

Date: 28 February 2014

Download

Field of View 12 - Volunteers (English)

Field of View 12 - Volunteers (English)

851Kb, PDF

Volunteer edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2013 season, in English.

Date: 28 February 2014

Download

Field of View 12 - Farmers (Welsh)

Field of View 12 - Farmers (Welsh)

344Kb, PDF

Farmers edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2013 season, in Welsh.

Date: 28 February 2014

Download

Field of View 12 - Farmers (English)

Field of View 12 - Farmers (English)

977Kb, PDF

Farmers edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2013 season, in English.

Date: 28 February 2014

Download

Field of View 11 - Scotland

Field of View 11 - Scotland

638Kb, PDF

Scotland edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2012 season.

Date: 17 December 2012

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Field of View 11 - Northern Ireland

Field of View 11 - Northern Ireland

676Kb, PDF

Northern Ireland edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2012 season.

Date: 17 December 2012

Download

Field of View 11 - England

Field of View 11 - England

593Kb, PDF

England edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2012 season.

Date: 17 December 2012

Download

Field of View 11 - Wales

Field of View 11 - Wales

611Kb, PDF

Welsh edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2012 season.

Date: 17 December 2012

Download

Cnoi Cil 11

Cnoi Cil 11

608Kb, PDF

Cylchlythyr projectau amaethyddol yr RSPB.

Date: 17 December 2012

Download

Field of View 10 - England

Field of View 10 - England

1.26Mb, PDF

England edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2011 season.

Date: 2 December 2011

Download

Field of View 10 - Northern Ireland

Field of View 10 - Northern Ireland

1.08Mb, PDF

Northern Ireland edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2011 season.

Date: 2 December 2011

Download

Field of View 10 - Scotland

Field of View 10 - Scotland

1023Kb, PDF

Scotland edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2011 season.

Date: 2 December 2011

Download

Field of View 10 - Wales

Field of View 10 - Wales

802Kb, PDF

Wales edition of the RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2011 season.

Date: 2 December 2011

Download

Cnoi Cil 10

Cnoi Cil 10

851Kb, PDF

Cylchlythyr projectau amaethyddol yr RSPB.

Date: 2 December 2011

Download

Field of View 9

Field of View 9

949Kb, PDF

The RSPB's Volunteer & Farmer Alliance newsletter summarising the 2010 season.

Date: 13 December 2010

Download

Who to contact

Jenny Atkins
Agricultural Projects Manager
E-mail: jenny.atkins@rspb.org.uk

Funding

This work was funded by the EU LIFE+ Programme.

EU Life