Axholme and Idle farmland birds project

Supporting farmers across the Isle of Axholme and River Idle washlands to help farmland birds. Engaging local people in understanding and celebrating countryside wildlife.

Grey partridge in grass


The Isle of Axholme and nearby River Idle washlands are home to nationally important numbers of farmland birds which are disappearing from England’s countryside. Local farmers need support to ensure these species continue to thrive on their land.


  • Help 75 per cent of the project area achieve farmland bird-friendly status by 2024.
  • 4.5 square kilometres of farmland bird-friendly features in place by 2024, such as wild-bird cover and nectar flower mixtures.
  • Demonstrate recovery of local populations of arable birds through monitoring of at least 30 sites by 2024.


  • 2013 - first farmland bird surveys completed on nine sites, recording 89 species. We had a stand at the family day with Abel & Cole at Pollybell Organic Farm.
  • 2014 - we met new and existing farmers and volunteers in Epworth in March, and completed a second set of farmland bird surveys on 11 sites, recording 63 species. We shared the project with the local community on an RSPB stand at the Festival of the Plough in September, and ran a farmland bird walk in October for surveyors, sharing experiences and practising surveying skills.
  • 2015 - the third round of baseline bird surveys was completed on another 14 sites.


Planned Work

With the launch of Countryside Stewardship, we will be supporting farmers across the area – both those with and without bird monitoring - developing and submitting applications to benefit wildlife.


Surveying focuses on key arable farmland birds and breeding waders, and so far has recorded excellent numbers of skylarks, yellowhammers and lapwings.
Specialist birds which appear to be struggling locally as they are nationally include yellow wagtail and turtle dove – the latter of which has only been recorded once in the three years to date. Search the RSPB farming blog for ‘Axholme’ for more detail on results.


  • Humberhead Levels Partnership


Coast on a stormy day

Kirsty Brannan

Senior conservation officer, RSPB
Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Wetland Species: Corn bunting Species: Curlew Species: Grey partridge Species: Lapwing Species: Linnet Species: Reed bunting Species: Skylark Species: Tree sparrow Species: Turtle dove Species: Yellow wagtail Species: Yellowhammer Project status: Ongoing Project types: Farming Project types: Species protection