Skylark Alauda arvensis, at the grassy edge of a small field. Cornwall

Skylark plots

The skylark can be found on all types of farm. It needs seeds and weeds throughout the year, insects and spiders in the spring and summer and nesting habitat to produce up to three broods every year.

Why create skylark plots?

The research into the decline of skylarks on arable farmland showed that cereal crops were the most favoured of the main arable crops, but skylark productivity was significantly better in spring cereals than in winter cereals.

Skylark numbers have declined on arable farmland with the decline in abundance of spring cereals.

Simply creating small skylark plots in winter cereals boosts skylark productivity in these crops by 50 per cent and could reverse the decline of skylarks if enough farmers take this option up.

In addition, skylark plots are known to be beneficial to yellow wagtails and are used for foraging by many other birds which feed on insects through the summer.

As the economic analysis opposite shows, it pays well to have skylark plots in your winter cereals within your Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) application. 

Skylark (alauda arvensis) sitting in heather, South Stack RSPB reserve, Wales

What you can do

Skylark plots can either be created by switching the drill off while drilling winter cereal crops, or by drilling the crop as normal and spraying out the plots before the end of December.

Aim to create roughly two hundred skylark plots per square kilometre across the winter cereal area. Research suggests the skylark decline would be reversed if 20 per cent of winter cereals in the UK had two hundred plots per square kilometre.

The plots should be a minimum of 16m square in area and 3m wide (eg 4x4m, or 3x6m, depending on the width of your drill if you choose to leave them undrilled).

After establishment, you do not need to take any further action – they can receive the same fertiliser and sprays as the rest of the field.