Photo: Martin Smith, by Sam Lee (RSPB)
Burnham Wick Farm is a medium-sized arable farm. Since Martin Smith took over its management in 2003, he has worked hard to develop a thriving arable environment, whilst promoting habitat diversity. An appreciation of farmland wildlife and its coexistence alongside productive farming has clearly been a strong motivation for Martin’s work.
In recognition of his achievements, the farm has previous won the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group’s Farming and Conservation competition and a Nature of Farming award. The farm is also signed up to the Countryside Stewardship scheme at entry level.
In 2014, Martin and the RSPB worked together to develop a feeding plot for turtle doves on the farm. These migratory farmland birds have suffered a catastrophic 93 per cent decline since the 1970s and are in desperate need of support to reverse the trend. Their decline is linked to many factors, including a shortage of summer seed on farmland and the loss of habitat on wintering and breeding grounds. But because Suffolk and Essex support almost 30 per cent of the UK breeding turtle dove population*, conservation actions are vital in this region.
At Burnham Wick Farm, a feeding ground has been established with accessible, seed-rich plants. One of the turtle dove’s favourite food sources is the pink-flowering furmitory. The planting is not too dense – as the birds need to be able to retrieve the seeds from open ground. A water supply is also located nearby.
As well as habitat for turtle doves, a scrape for waders has helped numbers of nesting lapwings to increase, and overwinter stubble and supplementary feeding helps birds on the farm during the winter months.
Simple measures like these can make a huge difference to wildlife, much of which is dependent upon farmland for its survival. By working together, the RSPB and farmers can identify practical, sustainable wildlife-friendly farming techniques.
*data provided by BTO Bird Atlas 2007-11
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