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9 Steps to Protect Farmland Species this Spring

1. March marks the beginning of nesting season for many birds. It is best to cease doing the following to protect these animals until September:

  • Hedgegrow management

  • Cutting ditches and dykes for field margins

  • Moorland burning

2. Starting in March, look for lapwing nest while cultivationg, harrowing or rolling. These birds may nest early.

3. Grasslands are the habitat for breeding waders like lapwings and curlews. Therefore, March is a good time to change grazing levels so that sward is maintained in the way the birds need it.

4. Starting from March 15, don’t spray insecticides on conservation headlands. Even though protecting the field boundaries and margins has always been important when you use insecticides, the conservation headlands prescription made for agri-environmentalism, makes is so that you need not (and shouldn’t) apply any insecticide on cereal field headlands after March 15. This will allow a safe place for helpful bug that can infiltrate crop during spring and are a food source for chicks of different species of birds, like the grey partridge.

5. Birds can also make their next in rotational set-aside fields until the green cover is sprayed off. So it is best to delay destroying the cover for as long as possible. Broad-leaved covers like crop volunteers and weeds can be sprayed off as late as the end of July, but competitive grass weeds need to be sprayed at the beginning of seeding so that you maintain control of the field. If you’re in southern England, black grass and barren brome should be sprayed late May, wild oats in early June and couch grass in June. Living in northern England may make the timeline a little later. Check with a BASIS-trained agronomist to know the ideal timing to gain effective control of the field.

6. Adjust your fertilizer spreader or use a border disc to keep it from getting into ditches, field margins and hedge bases.

7. Make a wild bird mix or use wild bird cover crops. It’s best to start in April-May to start seed-bearing crops for a food source for birds that will last two years. Consider using cereal, quinoa and kale for the mix as they are ideal (though Kale will only produce seeds the second winter).

8. Around silage fields, let a margin remain uncut. This uncut area makes a hunting ground for barn owls and good cover for hares. The uncut margins will also house insects that farmland birds can feast on.

9. Listen for corncakes. May marks their return from Africa. They come back to their breeding grounds – farms and crofts all over the north and west of Scotland, and Ireland. Listen for the distinct “crake” for the next weeks so you will know where their nest and chicks will be. Later, in July and August, the corncrakes stop craking, so it is vital to know their location before they quiet down. Then you will know which fields should be cut in a special way so as not to disturb their presence in August.

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