Downpatrick Farmer Aids Ailing Birds In Winter

Yellowhammers and other birds are benefitting from ‘Farming Together With Nature’ in County Down.

Earlier this month, more than 25 landowners attended a farm demo event to find out how they can help wildlife thrive on their farms. The event was organised by RSPB NI and hosted by Jack Kelly’s family, who own an arable farm near Downpatrick.

Jack Kelly pictured with local farmers and RSPB NI staff on his farm during bird demo tour.

Jack’s farm features a hay meadow, spring-sown cereals, grazed pastures, peas and beans and has been in previous agri-environment schemes. This year it was accepted into the new Environmental Farming Scheme).

Jack and his family have been helping birds and other wildlife in a number of ways such as by leaving some cereal fields unploughed in order to provide over-wintering stubbles, by having wild bird cover to provide an abundant supply of seed throughout these winter months, and having well-managed hedgerows, ie. hedgerows in a good triangular or A-shaped structure that are cut on a rotation of every two to three years.

Field margins which can be rough grass, pollen and nectar or annual wildflower margins) and a hay meadow on the Kelly farm also ensure that there is plenty of food and nesting sites available in summer.

Yellowhammers are making a comeback at Jack Kelly’s farm near Downpatrick due to careful planting to provide winter feed. (Photo by Andy Hay, RSPB).

Jack Kelly said: “One success  on the farm was the comeback of the yellowhammer, now a red-listed species of conservation concern.

“Over the past three years, RSPB surveys have shown that the yellowhammer territories on our farm have increased from four to 10, clearly demonstrating that applying these wildlife-friendly farm practices have helped this bird species recover.”

Those attending were treated to the sight and sound of yellowhammers and also saw tree sparrows and linnets making use of the seed available throughout the farm. Such birds are finding it increasingly difficult to find sufficient quantities of seed which they need to survive, so they do need help from local farmers.

The farm demo event included a guided walk and a presentation by the Nature Friendly Farming Network, a group of farmers who have come together to champion a way of farming which is sustainable and good for nature.

Seán Woods, Conservation Adviser with RSPB NI, said: “The Kelly farm provides a perfect working example of how farmers can make a huge difference for wildlife when apply agri-environment measures. It was fantastic to see this event so well attended and clearly demonstrates the appetite for nature-friendly farming in the area.”

The RSPB NI provides free farmland bird surveys and management advice to farmers across east County Down.

For more information, contact RSPB NI Conservation Advisor Seán Woods on 028 9049 1547

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