Whether it’s varieties of ale, dialect, football chants, scenery or soap opera, there have always been many differences separating southern and northern England.

Now it seems there is another: birds.

The RSPB, in conjunction with the BTO, has revealed a startling fact: bird populations in the south of England are faring less well than they are in the north. 

Take the linnet, for example, why should the numbers of this colourful finch have almost halved in parts of southern England, while they have only dipped slightly in the north. Similarly, goldfinch numbers have increased everywhere, but much more so in the north.

This is intriguing and it’s a fact that we can’t fully explain (yet), but there are some theories which could explain the differences. There are variations in land use across the length of England and other factors like water scarcity and climate change could also be having an effect.

As our Nature of Farming Awards demonstrated, many farmers and landowners are already doing the right thing for wildlife. We also know from our own work at the RSPB’s Hope Farm, near Cambridge, that populations of birds can be recovered. It is a highly successful arable farm and we are producing a good crop of birds. In ten years we have tripled the number of farmland birds. By contrast, the numbers of other farmland birds in East Anglia has fallen.

The RSPB is developing solutions to help farmers and other land managers restore birdsong to the countryside, but as I have blogged previously, existing schemes need to be made to work harder for wildlife.  And, we need to boost the amount of money available to support famers that want to step up for wildlife.

In the launch of the Natural Environment White Paper, the UK Government showed an encouraging commitment to protect biodiversity. However, without providing funding for those farmers who want to put wildlife back on the land and without guarantees that  planning reforms won’t damage hotspots for nature, the situation for birds and other wildlife could get worse.

In short, we need more support for people and policies that benefit wildlife.