RSPB Hope Farm, Cambridgeshire

Five minutes with Ian Dillon

A quick question and answer session with Ian Dillon, Hope Farm Manager

Our Q&A with Ian

How long have you been at Hope Farm?

I have been at Hope Farm for over 10 years now and have witnessed some remarkable changes in the numbers and diversity of breeding birds and other wildlife in that time. A few of my colleagues were here back in 2000, when we first bought the farm, and have seen even greater changes.

Why did the RSPB buy the farm?

The decision to buy Hope Farm came about because farmland bird numbers had declined dramatically during the 1970s, 80s and 90s as farming underwent dramatic changes. While some species did benefit from these changes, many struggled to survive – especially those most dependent on farmland. Species such as grey partridges, skylarks, yellowhammers and lapwings suffered considerable declines in abundance and range. Across much of lowland Britain it has now become a challenge to protect these species, which were previously very widespread. In fact it was the decline of grey partridges which first woke conservationists up to the crisis unfolding in the countryside.

What did it achieve?

Once we bought Hope Farm we set about demonstrating that it was quite possible to have abundant wildlife while still producing reasonable-yielding and profitable crops.

What are the biggest successes?

Some species have done very well  at Hope Farm due to the habitat and resources we provide for them, and importantly making sure the quality of the habitat is very good. Skylarks, for example, have increased from 10 territories in 2000 to 34 territories in 2016. Many more skylark chicks fledge now as they have more food to eat and are safer from predation.

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