Farming for Shropshire's future

PUBLISHED: 16:56 02 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:52 20 February 2013

The yellowhammer is on the increase on farms where wildlife is encouraged through good practice

The yellowhammer is on the increase on farms where wildlife is encouraged through good practice

RSPB volunteer Laura Giles tells how the organisation is encouraging farmers to act as custodians of Shropshire's flora and fauna

Farming for the future

RSPB volunteer Laura Giles tells how the organisation is encouraging farmers to act as custodians of Shropshires flora and fauna

Farmland is an important habitat for some of Englands most iconic and loved species, like the majestic barn owl, wily kestrel and the vibrant yellowhammer.

Shropshire is one of Englands most rural counties with an economy traditionally dominated by agriculture. Unfortunately however, changing farming practices and falling returns on agricultural produce now threaten the future of these valuable farmland habitats and their vulnerable associated species.

The RSPB is working with landowners and farmers across the UK to help manage key farmland habitats and wildlife that are of particular conservation concern. Dedicated to strengthening its relationship with the farming community and partner organisations such as Natural England, the RSPB is keen to highlight the commitment to good practice and enthusiasm that our farmers put into working their land for wildlife.
Shropshire farmer Michael Dugdale won this years Midlands Nature of Farming Award for work that he has done for wildlife on his mixed farm on the edge of the beautiful Wyre Forest. Michaels farm is a prime of example of how integrating conservation work with a modern and diverse agricultural practice can be a success for both wildlife and business, as numbers of yellowhammers and skylarks, rare hairstreak butterflies and orchids have all been seen to increase on the farm as a direct result of his dedication and hard work.

Through good planning and the implementation of a diversity of simple measures, year-round habitats and food supplies can be provided on arable land for threatened bird species like the elusive corn buntings and tree sparrows. Hard to farm, awkwardly-shaped land can be beneficially taken out of arable production and used instead to grow nectar-rich flower mixtures for insects or wild bird seed mixtures that will provide a plentiful supply of high-energy food for farmland birds throughout the winter months.

In the valleys and along riverbanks, flower-rich wet grassland can be restored, encouraging a diversity of species to flourish once more in our county. Its amazing to see how quickly plants like the beautiful bee orchid, butterflies or birds such as the handsome lapwing with its prominent crest and tumbling flight will respond with a bit of encouragement.

As we progress through October and into the winter months, the benefits of basic hedgerow management such as hedge-laying can become even more apparent. As the branches become bare, its easier to observe the many bird species that use our miles of hedges for both shelter and food. In particular, catching sight of the distinctive rusty-red flanks and underwing of the redwing, a winter migrant, as it snatches hawthorn berries and arrogantly chases away competitors, can be a delight.

The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Help us to continue our vital farmland conservation work, securing a future for some of our most threatened species by logging on to www.rspb.org.uk to find out more.

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