EU LIFE+ farmland bird project

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.

Manor Farm. Wiltshire, England.

Overview

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. It is intended to protect all wild birds in the EU. Its overall aim is to ensure all wild birds in Europe retain ‘favourable conservation status’, or regain this status.

Objectives

Our advice and support for farmers, funded by EU LIFE+, had these 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 press coverage.

Planned Work

(Work on this project has now ended)
 

Volunteer & Farmer Alliance

We planned to match 680 pairs of farmers and volunteers for surveys each year. 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. Through the project, we aimed to provide conservation management advice on over 150 square kilometres of farmland each year. Feedback from farmers was used throughout the project to improve the advice and services offered through a simple questionnaire.
 

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.
 
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 three million people each year through our targeted media work and membership. Over the course of the project, almost 60,000 votes have been cast.
 

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.  
 
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.
 

Materials

We have lots of advisory materials on identifying 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.

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 472 square kilometres 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 827 square kilometres 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 894 square kilometres of land
 

The Nature of Farming Award

Highlights:
 
2010 - 134 farmers entered the 2010 Nature of Farming Award. More than 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. More than 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. More than 17,000 votes were cast by the general public to decide the winner
 
2013 - 121 farmers entered, and more than 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 - 7,719 people received the project newsletter
 
2012 - 8,431 people received the project newsletter
 
2013 - 8,540 people received the final project newsletter 
 

New pilot projects

Following a nine-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. 
 
  • 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 which makes sense for their business as well as the environment.

Funding

  • This work was funded by the EU LIFE+ Programme.

A celebration of wildlife-friendly farmers

Nature of farming award winners Gethin Owen, Andrew Jackson, Colin Strang Steel and Jack Kelly discuss why they are passionate about helping nature.

Farmers' role as ‘custodians of the countryside’ is more important than ever. Four previous winners of ‘The Nature of Farming Awards’ talk about their passion for nature and why wildlife-friendly farming can also make commercial sense

Play video
A celebration of wildlife friendly farmers video screenshot

Download

An assessment of the EU LIFE+ Farmland Bird Project and the impacts it has had. PDF, 995Kb. 21 February 2014

Supporting wildlife-friendly farmers and delivering the Birds Directive

A report on project activities running from 01/01/2010 to 30/09/2013. PDF, 1.18Mb. 21 February 2014

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

Covering the project activities from 01/10/2011 to 31/12/2012. PDF, 168Kb. 3 January 2014

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

Covering the project activities from 01/01/2010 to 30/06/2011. PDF, 222Kb. 19 March 2012

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

Covering the project activities from 01/01/2010 to 31/08/2010. PDF, 153Kb. 19 March 2012

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

Contacts

Coast on a stormy day

Jenny Atkins

Agricultural projects manager, Technical Advise Unit

jenny.atkins@rspb.org.uk
Tagged with: Country: UK Habitat: Farmland Project status: Completed Project types: Advocacy Project types: Species protection