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Providing extra winter food is a winner

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Article written by 07 February 2013

Providing extra winter food is a winner for partridge conservation in Cumbria

A Cumbrian farmer has won a prestigious conservation award in recognition of the work he does to help threatened grey partridges on his farm. Martin Baird of Red Hall Farm near Wigton has been awarded the 2012 Cumbrian Grey Partridge Group trophy by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

The GWCT runs a grey partridge action group in Cumbria to encourage farmers and landowners to conserve the small populations of birds that remain in the county. Due to the appalling wet weather last summer, breeding success in 2012 was disastrous for these vulnerable birds. The GWCT is therefore advising farmers to maintain all-year-round habitats for grey partridges as well as providing additional food to boost their chances of survival through the ‘hungry gap’ in winter. This will help improve the breeding season in the year to come.

Grey partridge have three main habitat requirements: over-winter cover and food, nesting cover and brood rearing cover and food. Mr Baird provides this habitat largely through adopting relevant options in his Government-funded Higher Level Scheme.

Judging Red Hall Farm for the award, John Bowman of Natural England, praised Mr Baird. “Martin’s enthusiasm for conservation stands out when you look around his farm. With the help of his Higher Level Scheme and previous Countryside Stewardship Scheme he has restored a network of hedgerows, created year round habitat for seed eating birds and habitat for breeding waders. He is a shining example of how conservation can be incorporated into a modern intensive dairy farm.”

Henrietta Appleton of the GWCT advisory service, another judge of the award, said, “We would encourage farmers and landowners in the area to follow Martin’s example and provide sources of over winter cover and food across the farm. This could be through over-winter stubbles and wild bird seed mixes such as found at Red Hall Farm or could be through supplementary feeding using hoppers alongside cover such as hedges, game crops, winter oil seed rape and wild bird cover.”

Mrs Appleton added, “This winter it will not only be grey partridge that suffer, a whole variety of farmland birds, both resident and migrants, are likely to be short of food given the scarcity of natural berries and nuts, so putting out hoppers is likely to ensure more birds survive the winter and breed successfully next summer.”

The Cumbrian Grey Partridge Group’s members contribute data to the Trust’s Partridge Count Scheme and attend an annual meeting to discuss management options for supporting this native species that due to changes in land management practices is increasingly vulnerable in parts of Cumbria. From January 2013, farmers and landowners are being paid to provide additional grain during the ‘hungry gap’ through their agri-environment scheme.

For more information on how you can conserve wild grey partridge on your farm or in your area, please contact the Trust on 01425 651013. To sign up for the Partridge Count Scheme, please call 01425 651066.

 

 

Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is the leading UK charity conducting scientific research to enhance the British countryside for public benefit. Read more.

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