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Tavascarow

Farm land birds still bumping along at the bottom

Mark Avery. Farm land birds still bumping along at the bottom.

Quote:
In 2014 the numbers of farmland birds (as measured by overall trends in 19 species – see below) were at the second lowest level of the last 45 years (since, almost, records began). Guess what? The lowest level was in 2013! This is not a record of which any politician can be proud.

The farmland bird index was adopted as an indicator of environmental sustainability by the previous Labour government and quietly shelved by the coalition government in 2010.

The aggregate population levels of farmland birds are less than half of their 1970 level – and have been for years and years. The decline continues, though less rapidly than in the 1970s, with an 11% decline in the last five years covered by this update. Things are bad, and continue to get worse, despite all governments promising to make it better and despite hundreds of millions of pounds being given to farmers to improve the farmed environment every single year
Proof the current system isn't working?
Rob R

Re: Farm land birds still bumping along at the bottom

Mark Avery. Farm land birds still bumping along at the bottom.

Quote:
In 2014 the numbers of farmland birds (as measured by overall trends in 19 species – see below) were at the second lowest level of the last 45 years (since, almost, records began). Guess what? The lowest level was in 2013! This is not a record of which any politician can be proud.

The farmland bird index was adopted as an indicator of environmental sustainability by the previous Labour government and quietly shelved by the coalition government in 2010.

The aggregate population levels of farmland birds are less than half of their 1970 level – and have been for years and years. The decline continues, though less rapidly than in the 1970s, with an 11% decline in the last five years covered by this update. Things are bad, and continue to get worse, despite all governments promising to make it better and despite hundreds of millions of pounds being given to farmers to improve the farmed environment every single year
Proof the current system isn't working?


Yep.
Ty Gwyn

The only thing that proves is certain bird numbers in certain area`s have declined.
Rob R

The only thing that proves is certain bird numbers in certain area`s have declined.


And increased.

Just imagine what it would have been like without the stewardship measures.
Tavascarow

The only thing that proves is certain bird numbers in certain area`s have declined. It's a national study & proves the farming environment in all sectors isn't helping with biodiversity despite large amounts of money being thrown at it.
Some species are good indicators of where the problems are.
Species like woodpigeon & the corvids that eat a very varied diet & nest in trees are holding their own, wood pigeon are still a pest species in most places (collared doves are getting there as well in some places as are ringed parakeets).
The seed eaters aren't doing so well.
The ones that are really struggling are the ground nesters & the insectivores.
Tavascarow

I haven't seen a covey of grey partridge since the mid eighties.
Of all of the nineteen species there's only one (other than wood pigeon) that's doing well here, & that's the goldfinch.
Some of the species I wouldn't expect to find here anyway, but generally I'd agree with the findings.
Rob R

The only thing that proves is certain bird numbers in certain area`s have declined. It's a national study & proves the farming environment in all sectors isn't helping with biodiversity despite large amounts of money being thrown at it.

It doesn't prove that, it doesn't even compare bird numbers with the amount or location of spending. You're generalising too much.
Tavascarow

From the report.
www.gov.uk/defra
WILD BIRD POPU
LATIONS IN THE UK, 1970
TO 2014
Annual statistical release
29
October 2015

Woodland birds 20% lower
Water & wetland birds 15% lower.
seabird 27% lower.
Farmland birds 54% lower.
Happy to admit that most of that loss happened in the last three decades of the twentieth century but if things where really improving numbers should be increasing now not still dropping. They are over 10% down since 2010.
Ty Gwyn

I still disagree,this national survey,one would have thought that the people doing the survey would realise that not all the bird species mentioned live in All area`s,

ie. Skylarks,Lapwings and Yellow Hammers were abundant on the hill farm i came from,not seen either here in nearly 29yrs,
And the majority of this valley is as extensively farmed as it gets.
Rob R

There's no evidence that the money spent isn't helping. Tavascarow

I still disagree,this national survey,one would have thought that the people doing the survey would realise that not all the bird species mentioned live in All area`s,

ie. Skylarks,Lapwings and Yellow Hammers were abundant on the hill farm i came from,not seen either here in nearly 29yrs,
And the majority of this valley is as extensively farmed as it gets.
These studies are done in a scientific way.
They choose species from various habits & habitats because it's a good indicator of where the problems are.
Certain species are always going to be found in certain habitats & not others. It's the numbers that are important.
54% is twice the decline of the worst of the others (seabirds 27%)
& farming has (although I don't know) probably had more money given to it for environmental purposes than all the others put together.
So either that money is being wasted or not being used honestly IMHO.
My gut feeling as I've said before is farming systems have to change radically. At the moment the money is being spent on window dressing.
& even that not very well.
I know of one farm twenty odd years ago that was given a number of apple trees & a reasonable grant to plant them.
He pocketed the money & didn't even get the trees in the ground.
I don't know what it's like now but back then I'm sure a lot of that went on.
Tavascarow

There's no evidence that the money spent isn't helping. No there isn't, these species might be hurtling towards extinction even faster if the farmers weren't having extra cash.
That doesn't make it right.
Rob R

There's no evidence that the money spent isn't helping. No there isn't, these species might be hurtling towards extinction even faster if the farmers weren't having extra cash.
That doesn't make it right.

No, it's not right, and until we stop telling people to cut down on certain food groups and start telling them to eat foods grown in a certain way it will remain the best compromise. Wildlife should pay and people should pay for it.
Mistress Rose

There has been a change in the way farming has been done, and this may account for some of the changes. Round here nearly all crops are winter sown, and very few spring sown. That will affect some of the birds and no amount of money thrown at that is going to do anything unless the farmers decide to go back to spring sowing.

Tavascarow, if farmers have to jump through the same hoops that woodland owners are now being expected to jump through, for something like £150 a hectare you are expected to produce reports, take pictures and all sort of other things, which in my case won't really be worth while.

In the past it is quite possible that people got away without doing the work, although they still layed themselves open to having the money taken back at least, with possible fines and even prosecution for fraud if they were too blatant.
Tavascarow

There's no evidence that the money spent isn't helping. No there isn't, these species might be hurtling towards extinction even faster if the farmers weren't having extra cash.
That doesn't make it right.

No, it's not right, and until we stop telling people to cut down on certain food groups and start telling them to eat foods grown in a certain way it will remain the best compromise. Wildlife should pay and people should pay for it. Here we go again.
Eat meat good eat greens bad!!
That doesn't hold water & you know it. Wink
Individual farming practices & management systems are at fault not the produce.
An example from a Dartmoor Blog an area with probably less arable than anywhere in the UK apart from the highlands of Scotland & Wales.
Worth reading in full & studying the maps. & note an area that receives the full higher level stewardship payments because of its environmental sensitivity. (upper Plym).
Quote:
These maps do not tell a happy tale. Our land is now in far worse condition than it was in 1990 as a result of overgrazing and burning (known as swaling on Dartmoor). We have recently commissioned a further vegetation survey – I have yet to receive the document but has spoken to the author who confirms that the overall situation has probably not deteriorated further but neither has it improved. Since around 2002 the entire area has been subject to either an Environmentally Sensitive Area agreement or a Higher Level Stewardship agreement which has paid the Commoners and the NT (as landowner we get 10% of the payments but have no specific input into the management) to manage the land in a way which will be beneficial to its special interest (i.e. the blanket bog, the wet and dry heathlands). It has failed to deliver those improvements but it probably has halted the declines.
Finding an arable equivalent is harder because most arable land isn't deemed environmentally sensitive. but IMHO that shouldn't stop farmers from encouraging biodiversity & I'm sure there are many arable farmers being paid funds to encourage wildlife ineffectually as well. Rob R

Tavascarow, if farmers have to jump through the same hoops that woodland owners are now being expected to jump through, for something like £150 a hectare you are expected to produce reports, take pictures and all sort of other things, which in my case won't really be worth while.

Stewardship wasn't particularly bad for it but there was always the chance of being inspected at any time. The main problem was the inflexibility of the timings that made it difficult to farm effectively, especially when combined with the Ings grazing - it meant that you had loads of land available in summer and one field that was kept out of stewardship for the purpose in winter.

It paid for the materials cost of hedges, fences and water supply but I don't miss it for the area payments. The freedom to farm according to the conditions is worth the few quid you got IMO.
Rob R

There's no evidence that the money spent isn't helping. No there isn't, these species might be hurtling towards extinction even faster if the farmers weren't having extra cash.
That doesn't make it right.

No, it's not right, and until we stop telling people to cut down on certain food groups and start telling them to eat foods grown in a certain way it will remain the best compromise. Wildlife should pay and people should pay for it. Here we go again.
Eat meat good eat greens bad!!
That doesn't hold water & you know it. Wink

That isn't what I said at all. You are proponent of organic farming, which encourages biodiversity. I use grazing animals to have the same effect. If it builds biodiversity then you shouldn't have a problem it, plant or animal. Lets put our dietary differences aside and concentrate on what really matters - the birds.

If people value biodiversity then they will purchase accordingly but without them placing a value upon it it's left to farmers and the government/EU to value it.
Tavascarow

It can be done apparently.
Which does raise the question what have the establishment & farmers been doing with all that money & not getting any results?
Quote:
It brings together the changes in farmland birds on two farms: Loddington, 292ha of Leicestershire, managed by the GWCT since 1991 and Hope Farm, 181ha of Cambridgeshire managed by the RSPB since 1999.

Both farms have done spectacularly well in their bird numbers, compared with other farms covered by bird monitoring surveys in their regions. If all farms in the East Midlands performed like Loddington, and all farms in East Anglia like Hope Farm, then the farmland bird issues would, basically, be solved. At both farms the main tools have been use of existing agri-environment schemes. It’s really that simple.

At Loddington, over 20 years, the farmland bird numbers increased by about 50% in the absence of legal predator control of crows, foxes etc. Bird numbers increased more in early years when the unrealistic expense of a full-time gamekeeper was employed on this small farm, but a 50% increase in bird numbers, when all around are losing theirs, is a great achievement.

At Hope Farm, farmland bird numbers trebled in just 10 years. A fantastic achievement. All achieved without predator control.

And if we were to delve deeper into the figures, then Hope Farm does better on the increase in Farmland Bird Index, Farmland Specialist index, Biodiversity Action Plan index and the Birds of Conservation Concern Red List index. In other words, the RSPB farm is consistently better at increasing the numbers of endangered and decreasing farmland birds whereas the GWCT farm does best on non-threatened and non-declining species. Both are admirable, but one is more admirable than the other.
My bold. Tavascarow

Or to use the authors words because his are better.
Quote:
But the take-home message from this study is that the decline in farmland birds, which continues, is not inevitable – it is a choice. It is a choice made by the farming industry and government. Either could, at any time over the last couple of decades, or starting today, fix the decline in farmland birds very easily. We are pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into farmers’ pockets in environmental payments every year, and what we get for our money is continued decline in farmland wildlife. These two examples show that a bit of good habitat scattered around the food-producing areas of a productive farm, can bring the wildlife back. Why not?

Liz Truss – why not get on and do it?
Rob R

It can be done apparently.
Which does raise the question what have the establishment & farmers been doing with all that money & not getting any results?


As I said earlier, it is not really working. The schemes are typically bureaucratic, all about qualifiying for eligibility criteria rather than results. Also, as I also said, I think you're better off without the restrictions if you want to farm and care for the environment in the best way possible.

The schemes have certainly helped put a lot of hedgerows in here & elsewhere. My first job was on a 500 acre arable farm which I pass every day on the way to the cows. They'd planted the hedges before I started, but we did do a lot of maintenance, the cost of which wasn't covered by the grants so I appreciate that there is a need for the farmers to be on board too.

My own view is that the schemes should be based on results, not eligibility criteria. It's a constant frustration for me that environmental grants, for example, are given to polluters to get them to stop rather than funding folk who aren't polluting in the first place. However, as Loddington & Hope both show though, the funding is helpful where the farmers are on board.

Extra funding available from charitable donations must help hugely too. Prices have been generally depressed across all sectors throughout my entire career and that encourages mis-use of funding or, at the very least, poor utilisation of funding as paying the bank back is a higher priority if you want to continue farming, especially in situations where you get no more money for good results.

It's nice to see, or rather not-see the farm as I pass the farm where I used to work, as the hedges are now mature. Likewise, we had two big fields here when we started and they are now divided back into the original four with the new hedges now blending in with the size of the established ones. I like to think that our customers appreciate the wildlife we have here but there is huge potential to do even better the more productive the farm becomes.
Ty Gwyn

It does`nt say,but presume these are both arable farms,surrounded by similar farms. Rob R

It does`nt say,but presume these are both arable farms,surrounded by similar farms.

Yes, they're both very much arable farms.
Rob R

Mark Avery and the RSPB are saying different things, though;

Farmland birds increase but two key species decline

RSPB wrote:
The fundamental design of the scheme is sound, but DEFRA needs to learn the lessons from this year and improve [its] implementation, including enhancing [the] focus on biodiversity, fixing their broken IT system and ensuring Natural England has the resources to make the scheme a success


Mark Avery wrote:
Defra is not doing its job properly.


The DEFRA report does, at least, seem to agree with me though;

Quote:
The historical declines in breeding waders, such as those featured in the water and wetland indicator, resulted from land management changes such as drainage, the
intensification of grassland management and the conversion of coastal and floodplain grazing marshes to arable land.


But I won't bore you with my thoughts on drainage, as it's getting a little off topic.
Tavascarow

Mark Avery is an individual beholden to no one.
The RSPB are a very large charity ,very dependant on government (defra) cooperation & funding for their projects. We have a government who like to slash funding (& cooperation) to anyone who disagrees with them.
They have to be more diplomatic in their statements for their own good.
Mistress Rose

Unfortunately these very schemes that you say farmers are not keeping to are part of the problem Tavascarow, as Rob says. Take hedge cutting. There is a ban on hedge cutting between I think it is now April and October, so it all has to be done between November and March. This means that the fruits and nuts the birds would normally feed on are destroyed at the very time in this area, when the birds most need them. The reason for the long period of prohibition is nesting, but feeding is as important, and surely it would be better if the farmer was allowed to asses the best time for trimming that is best for his area, farm and hedge.

Some of the problem is not even within the UK. Migrant birds are affected by things sometimes 1000s of miles away.

Not doing some things can be as bad as doing them at the wrong time of year or too much. Woodland birds are also declining, because woodland flowers and insects are. This is mainly due to lack of management which makes the woods too dark to support flowers, which support the insects and so the food chain goes on.
Tavascarow

Unfortunately these very schemes that you say farmers are not keeping to are part of the problem Tavascarow, as Rob says. Take hedge cutting. There is a ban on hedge cutting between I think it is now April and October, so it all has to be done between November and March. This means that the fruits and nuts the birds would normally feed on are destroyed at the very time in this area, when the birds most need them. The reason for the long period of prohibition is nesting, but feeding is as important, and surely it would be better if the farmer was allowed to asses the best time for trimming that is best for his area, farm and hedge.

Some of the problem is not even within the UK. Migrant birds are affected by things sometimes 1000s of miles away.

Not doing some things can be as bad as doing them at the wrong time of year or too much. Woodland birds are also declining, because woodland flowers and insects are. This is mainly due to lack of management which makes the woods too dark to support flowers, which support the insects and so the food chain goes on. Hedge cutting isn't necessary most of the time & does more damage thsn good in most instances (flailing obviously). My two nearest neighbours flail their hedges every year. Why? one in three is ample.
A recent article I read said farmers would be better off just light trimming the sides of hedges once in three years & then harvesting for firewood every eight to ten. Thus encouraging new growth from the base (something flailing rarely does).
It didn't say how to keep the hedge stock proof after coppicing unfortunately but as most flailed hedges aren't stock proof anyway I suppose temporary fencing isn't that big a deal.
Tavascarow

Why isn't the UK standing up for EU Nature Laws?.
Quote:
Last week, nine European countries called on the EU to protect two key pieces of nature legislation: the Birds and Habitats Directives.

A coalition of European Parliament members (MEPs) followed up with another letter, taking the same strong position. The UK stayed silent.
Established in 1979 and 1992 respectively, the Birds and Habitats Directives form the basis of European wildlife law. The Habitats Directive alone protects over 1,000 animal and plant species and 200 habitats.
Probably because they can't exploit it if it's protected. (IMHO). Rob R

Mark Avery is an individual beholden to no one.
The RSPB are a very large charity ,very dependant on government (defra) cooperation & funding for their projects. We have a government who like to slash funding (& cooperation) to anyone who disagrees with them.
They have to be more diplomatic in their statements for their own good.

So am I, that doesn't make either of us automatically right.

I'm more inclined to believe someone who has participated in the process though and comes back with constructive criticism than one who doesn't.

Any bureaucratic system that relies upon eligibility criteria instead of paying for results is bound to under perform, though. Essentially you're getting paid by just complying to a set of arbitary rules , it doesn't provide farmers with the flexibility to innovate, or if it does, it doesn't reward them for doing so, so there is no incentive to be innovative nor perform well.
Tavascarow

Mark Avery is an individual beholden to no one.
The RSPB are a very large charity ,very dependant on government (defra) cooperation & funding for their projects. We have a government who like to slash funding (& cooperation) to anyone who disagrees with them.
They have to be more diplomatic in their statements for their own good.

So am I, that doesn't make either of us automatically right.

I'm more inclined to believe someone who has participated in the process though and comes back with constructive criticism than one who doesn't.

Any bureaucratic system that relies upon eligibility criteria instead of paying for results is bound to under perform, though. Essentially you're getting paid by just complying to a set of arbitary rules , it doesn't provide farmers with the flexibility to innovate, or if it does, it doesn't reward them for doing so, so there is no incentive to be innovative nor perform well. The very reason the communist system failed. People got paid for not doing the job. I'm not attacking farmers but the system for not overseeing it properly.
But for that to happen you have to have an administration who is actually commited to the principle of improving & protecting biodiversity.
This one isn't as my last post proves.
People like yourself & Ty might have had a few quid here & there but there are landowners who have been paid very large sums of money to protect sensitive habitat & endangered species & the money has been wasted.
Some less charitable might say pocketed.
Edited to say people got paid whether they did the job or not. Some people are committed regardless.
Rob R

Mark Avery is an individual beholden to no one.
The RSPB are a very large charity ,very dependant on government (defra) cooperation & funding for their projects. We have a government who like to slash funding (& cooperation) to anyone who disagrees with them.
They have to be more diplomatic in their statements for their own good.

So am I, that doesn't make either of us automatically right.

I'm more inclined to believe someone who has participated in the process though and comes back with constructive criticism than one who doesn't.

Any bureaucratic system that relies upon eligibility criteria instead of paying for results is bound to under perform, though. Essentially you're getting paid by just complying to a set of arbitary rules , it doesn't provide farmers with the flexibility to innovate, or if it does, it doesn't reward them for doing so, so there is no incentive to be innovative nor perform well. The very reason the communist system failed. People got paid for not doing the job. I'm not attacking farmers but the system for not overseeing it properly.
But for that to happen you have to have an administration who is actually commited to the principle of improving & protecting biodiversity.
This one isn't as my last post proves.
People like yourself & Ty might have had a few quid here & there but there are landowners who have been paid very large sums of money to protect sensitive habitat & endangered species & the money has been wasted.
Some less charitable might say pocketed.
Edited to say people got paid whether they did the job or not. Some people are committed regardless.

Yep, exactly.
Mistress Rose

The Habitats Directive is not very comprehensive. It means that where there is a risk or certain animals being present, nothing can be done to damage their habitat or put them at risk. I have heard of instances where a Natural England rep has said coppicing has to stop because there are bats in a tree, which would not be affected. It was pointed out to him that the bats are there because the coppice was cut so there were lots of insects available for them. A bureaucratic tick box rather than common sense.

Having said that, I don't think we can expect support from the government on anything that doesn't give short term profit, and even less from anything that will cost money.
Falstaff

Quote:


The 19 species on the farmland bird index are: Grey Partridge, Kestrel, Lapwing, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Turtle Dove, Jackdaw, Rook, Skylark, Starling, Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch. Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow.

Falstaff

Species Not included -

Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jay, Grey Squirrel, "Domestic" Cat, Mink, Heron, Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrow Hawk, Cormorant, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Goshawk.

It has been mooted that many of the declining species are a) Insectivorous, b) ground nesters

It should also be noted that some of the others are c) migratory or d) reliant on holes in trees for nest sites.

The depletion in insect life is very valid IMHO - this has (or should have been linked ) to the flailing of hedgerows and the "Neatness fetish" which destroys nettles and long grass in verges - precisely at the time when some species (Grey Partidge for instance) need to be nesting in that environmet. [Grey partridge chicks are also insectivorous in their early lives ! ]

However - Some noticeable omissions - Cuckoos for instance are less easy to explain - except for the lack of their (insectivorous) hosts !
dpack

between the three places where i have some input 16 out of those 19 are doing ok.

organisations such as english nature should be made to realise that a one size fits all tick box sheet is not the best way to manage landscapes

a glaring example is the not before/not after a calender date to do or not do something.
not before or not after something has set seed/fledged etc etc might be a much better way to time activity.

the idiots that think do nothing will preserve a habitat have really missed the point that the habitat in question only exists because folk have done something to create and maintain it(marine environments less so but some are a result of human activities)
Tavascarow



However - Some noticeable omissions - Cuckoos for instance are less easy to explain - except for the lack of their (insectivorous) hosts ! I don't know much about cuckoo wintering habitats.
I know ten or fifteen years back swallows populations took a dive (deliberate pun) because of drought conditions in the Sahel.
They at least appear to be buoyant again.

This BTO study seems to think similar, but early days.
Mistress Rose

That's an interesting report Tavascarow. I knew cuckoos wintered in Africa, but not so far south. Question is whether they are a tropical bird that breeds in temperate climates, or a bird of temperate regions that visits the tropics, or just plain misguided. Very Happy
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