Is wildlife thriving on YOUR farm?
Do you know what wildlife is making your farm their home? How has your ELS or HLS benefited the local flora and fauna? Has it increased the number of farmland birds, hares, wildflowers?
We often think that we have seen new species, or more of certain species, as we go around the farm, but it may be entirely subjective. Scientific surveys and monitoring are often the job of specialists and can be expensive.
If you were in the original Countryside Stewardship, you may have had a bird survey done before entering – perhaps through the RSPB Farmer & Volunteer Alliance or local bird surveyors organised by FWAG – but it wasn’t required at the end of the agreement so there was usually no record of what had happened over the 10 (or 20!) years. Then, when online bird records showed what might be on your farm, surveys were no longer required.
What you can do without the need of an expert:
♦ GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count is an annual count preceded by ID training days and is a great way of getting a snapshot of what is happening on the farm.
♦ A monthly walk around the farm to see where flowering plants occur and whether there is a constant supply of flowers from March to October to benefit pollinating insects.
♦ Look for harvest mouse nests in November and December; these mice nest in tall, stiff grasses such as cocksfoot or reeds, anywhere from ground level to a metre or more above ground. Nests are about the size of a cricket ball, woven from strips of leaf still attached to the plant.
Apps for iPhones and iPads:
Birdguides’ Butterflies of Britain and Ireland and Dragonflies and Damselflies of Britain and Ireland, Wild Mushrooms of North America and Europe, Collins British Wildlife Photoguide and Tree ID (price £1.50-£10).
Free Apps for androids and iPhones:
Project Noah, Birdtrack, BatLib (for use with a bat detector), Nature Finder, Mammal Tracker, ForestXplorer and OPAL Bugs Count, all recommended by the Natural History Bookstore.
If you want to call in experts, local bird clubs are a good place to start, and you might be interested in benchmarking your farm in partnership with the new charity Red List Revival, founded by Herts farmer Edward Darling.
You could contact experts to survey for particular species:
If you are coming to the end of a scheme or starting a new one, this is a good time to find out what you have on the farm and, of course, we can help! Give us a ring on 01223 841507 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.