Brecks focus area

Help and advice for farmers is part of the work undertaken by RSPB advisors and the Brecks is no exception, with a substantial number of farmers interested in wildlife on their farms. Expert advice on individual farms can make a huge difference.

Stone curlew, Oedicnemus burhinus, adults changing over at their nest on a plot managed specially for them at Winterbourne Downs RSPB reserve, Wessex Stone curlew project.


The Brecks has a huge wealth of wildlife and one example is the stone-curlew, a rare summer migrant to England, breeding in only a handful of areas. The farmland bird assemblage is also important, with corn buntings, turtle doves and tree sparrows found in the area. 
With the changes in farming practices over the last few decades, pressure has been placed on the wildlife within the farmed landscape, with many of our farmland birds declining in number. 
The lack of food in winter has put huge pressure on winter survival and the amount of insect-rich food from early spring until the autumn (with which the birds feed their young) has also declined.
With the growing human population, there is increased pressure to crop the entire farm. This in turn has left little if no area for ground nesting birds. All these pressures have resulted in declines throughout the countryside. 
But all is not lost, as there is a great opportunity to help these birds through agri-environment schemes. With expert advice we can help the population of our farmland birds recover.


  • More safe nesting plots on farms for stone curlews, lapwings and skylarks
  • Increase over-winter food availability for farmland birds to help with survival during the winter months and peak fitness for breeding season
  • Increase in insect-rich habitat to help adult birds feed their young during breeding season
  • To encourage farmers to contact us for free advice, a farm visit, or help and support with new and existing agri-environment agreements
  • To develop good farmer relations 


  • Increase in the number of safe nesting plots and better management for stone-curlews
  • More farmer contacts
  • Continued support from existing farmers
  • Increase in land area going into agri-environment schemes


Planned Work

Continually speaking to farmers, giving advice and support with regards to the importance of producing over-winter bird food, insect-rich habitat and safe nesting areas. 
With Countryside Stewardship (CS) starting soon, it has created a great opportunity to encourage more farmers into the scheme, with a view to creating more suitable habitat in the Brecks.
We will be working to set up the first Nature Friendly Zone within the Brecks. This will be made up of farmers who will be the best of the best in terms of delivering wildlife conservation.


  • Advice has been given to farmers, which has equated to over 145 square kilometres of farmland
  • We have increased the number of farmers we are working with and now have a closer working relationship with many of them
  • The number of safe nesting plots has increased, either through amendments to existing agreements or included in new Higher Level Schemes (HLS) for stone-curlews
  • Farmers who are currently on agri-environment with no nesting plots have been encouraged to add them to their agreements, while new applicants have included nesting plots from the start of their agreements
  • More farmers are going into agri-environment schemes.




Coast on a stormy day

Andrew Holland

Conservation Advisor, RSPB
Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Grassland Species: Barn owl Species: Corn bunting Species: Grey partridge Species: Lapwing Species: Linnet Species: Reed bunting Species: Skylark Species: Snipe Species: Stone-curlew Species: Tree sparrow Species: Turtle dove Species: Yellow wagtail Species: Yellowhammer Project status: Project types: Advocacy Project types: Research Project types: Species protection