Friday, 7 October 2011

Hare's, Hairstreak's and Harebell's

On the 21st September we organised a farm walk to look at how our Higher level Stewardship options can be used on a modern farming business to increase habitats for our farmland species. The walk was jointly organised by FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) and GWCT (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The title for the invitation was Hare's, Hairstreak's and Harebells, which basically meant, animals/birds, plants and insects.

The tour started with a brief introduction then it was off on the trailers around the farm.  Our first stop was with Peter Thompson from the GWCT who was telling us about the benefits of pollen and nectar strips and wild bird food.  This strip looked great with the pollen and nectar providing insect food which could then be fed on by young birds, especially grey partridge chicks.  We haven't seen grey partridge on the farm for a few a years so I am hopeful that with these areas dotted around the farm we could see their return!  Peter also demonstrated the wild bird mixture planted adjacent to the pollen mix.  This he descibed as a 'bird table ready for winter'.  He's quite correct with the quinoa, millet, triticale present it should really attract the small birds through the winter, when the hedgrows and woodlands have run out of food.  The combination of these two mixes with the hedge and grass verge provide the three crital requirements of our farmland birds, nesting habitat (hedge/tussocky grasses), chick feed (Pollen and nectar) and adult winter food (bird table).
After this stop we headed out up the hill for some fresh air and a leg stretch to learn about beetle banks.  Click HERE to listen to Peter again telling us of the vital role these habitats can play in conservation.  They are also a good way to help friendly beneficials get further into our fields to help control aphids!

After this stop we loaded up again and headed to another area of the farm were we are maintaining species rich limestone grassland.  The sheep are helping to graze this vital habitat where grass and wild flowers have regenerated the fields after being in arable production.  On the way around we managed to spot a brown hare and also some harebells so as Meat Loaf would tell you , 2 out of 3 ain't bad.  A huge thankyou to our speakers, Bob Slater from FWAG, Matt Willmott from Natural England and Peter Thompson from GWCT who made this a real enjoyable farm tour to be a part of and for teaching me something new!

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