The RSPB is seeking nominations for its Nature of Farming Award.
Run for the first time in 2008 with the backing of BBC Countryfile Magazine, Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife – the award provides recognition for farmers for providing the ‘big three’ – the three essentials that farmland birds need to thrive:
Food in winter
Winter stubbles, weedy root crops or special mixtures of seed-rich plants all provide the seeds that many birds need to survive the winter. Others birds rely on berries but these berries are only available if hedgerows are cut only once every two or three years, in late winter.
Food in spring
With hungry chicks to feed, adult birds must have somewhere to find insects and areas where wildflowers can grow and damp areas of pasture can both increase insect numbers. Birds including yellowhammers, corn buntings and grey partridges will benefit.
Whether in the hedgerows and ditches or the centre of the fields, a safe nest site is critical to the survival of many birds on farmland. Well-managed margins – edges of fields allowed to grow wild - and small, unsown patches in arable fields called skylark plots, offer a lifeline for a range of farmland birds.
A total of £2,400 is up for grabs for the winner and seven regional champions. The national winner will be chosen next autumn with the top prize of £1,000 and other awards, being presented in early 2009.
An expert panel will draw up a shortlist of four farmers in July and the winner will be chosen by an online public vote. Dr Darren Moorcroft, Head of Conservation Advice at the RSPB, said: “Farmers are at the frontline of conservation. Their decisions determine how hospitable to wildlife their farms are. This award will showcase the very best, championing the vital conservation role farming can play.
“Farmland bird declines started several decades ago. Whilst species like skylarks, lapwings and corn buntings have benefited immeasurably from the actions of individual farmers, across the UK they are still struggling and desperately need more help.
“We’re hoping that this award will encourage more farmers to get involved and make a real difference to these birds’ fortunes.”
To enter the Nature of Farming Award, go online to www.rspb.org.uk/farming and fill out the online form. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01767 680551. The closing date is March 31, 2009.