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Farmers help wading birds to survive

[Friday 15 January 2010]

Wading birds are being given a helping hand by farmers in the Yorkshire Dales.

Arkengarthdale and Swaledale are hotspots for wading birds like curlew, redshank, lapwing and snipe, and the farmers are working with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) and Natural England to improve the habitats.

Helen Keep and Ian Court, from the YDNPA’s Conservation and Policy department, organised a workshop for farmers to look at ways they could help the birds and improve the quality of the allotment land for their livestock.

“We held a workshop at Bouldershaw Farm in Arkengarthdale This farm is in an Environmental Stewardship Agreement funded by Natural England, with management focused on improving the habitats for wading birds. The numbers using the farm are regionally significant but there is room for improving the habitat. The farm has been set up as a demonstration farm in order to show other farmers how easy it is to benefit waders,” she said.

“The Authority has worked very closely with the farmer, Stuart Parker, to develop the habitats that benefit these birds. We have looked at controlling and managing rush beds by mowing and spraying them and we have also put in a number of shallow scrapes that dry up in summer but are full of water in spring during the nesting season and create excellent habitats for invertebrates, which the chicks feed off.

“We had a very positive feedback from the day and a lot of farmers said they would actively take up the work, especially the rush mowing, which opens the land up for grazing and really benefits the habitat of breeding lapwings.

“We are now planning another similar event this year and we would like to hear from any farmers in the south of the National Park who are already in an agri-environment scheme and feel their farms are a good example of this type of management and could be used as a demonstration farm.”

Andrew Colley, the YDNPA’s Member Champion for Conservation of the Natural Environment, said: “We have nationally-important populations of wading birds spread across large areas of the National Park.

“The uplands are becoming the last refuge for these wonderful birds so it is vitally important that we help our farmers to provide the habitats that will ensure they survive and flourish.”

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