With 70% of the UK farmed, farmland is of pivotal importance for our wildlife and we need wildlife friendly farmers to give nature a home, Nicholas tells us how he runs a successful farm business whilst providing important habitats for birds, insects and flowers.
As I sat down with my wife, Anne, for supper last Saturday, I realised what a special day I’d had. I had been out checking Tree Sparrow nest boxes with my eight year old grandson, Tim, and out of the 30 nest boxes we checked 28 were occupied. And not only had I been able to share my passion with my grandson – and he gets a big buzz out of it as well – but the Tree Sparrows were only there because I had created the habitat for them. Earlier I had been checking Barn Owl nest boxes, for the past 3 years I have had 9 pairs nesting on the farm and they are only there in those numbers because I have provided the right habitat for them, the same with Whitethroats, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Yellow Wagtails, Linnets, Lapwings and butterflies. They have all increased.
Which brings me to ‘Giving nature a home’ as that is what I have been doing for the past 20 years: It was in 1982 when I started recording the breeding birds on my farm but I didn’t realise just how fast they were declining until 1992, and this really worried me. I love farming and I love wildlife – especially the birds, so I just had to start reversing that decline on my farm.
I have studied every crop and every type of cultivation, plus the other habitats on and around the farm such as dykes and hedges. And not only on my farm but all my neighbours’ farms as well, with every spring seeing me walk about 70 miles surveying the land to find out where the birds are and why they are there – or, of course, why they are not there. All these surveys are done between 5am and 7am, and I never fail to be motivated enough to get out there and do it, and my daughter Lucy often accompanies me too.
These breeding bird surveys have taught me so much about birds and I have put it all into practice on my farm. I have planted hedges, widened dykes and dug lots of ponds. I have persuaded our local drainage board not to cut our drainage ditches so often, I have wide grass margins, cultivated margins to provide seed and insects for our small farmland birds, and 15 acres of wild flower meadows for butterflies and other insects. The land to create this habitat has been taken from rich Fen farmland, as we don’t have any steep banks, wet holes or awkward field corners here in the Fens. I have lots of spring crops which are ideal for Lapwings, and this year over 30 pairs of this wonderful bird bred on my farm. In the winter and spring I feed hundreds of birds all over the farm as I just love to see a lot of birds around.
I was born on my farm, and I love it as my home, my work and my passion.
Proud to be in the East, then find out more and vote for Nicholas here www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote
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