“Over-winter supplementary feeding is one of a number of methods that can be easily implemented on farm and proven to successfully boost farmland bird winter survival,” according to Matt Goodall, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Wales advisor.
Funded by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Shared Outcome Request in North East Wales - one of seven Area Statements in Wales – this project aims to raise awareness of methods that can be easily implemented on farms to halt and reverse farmland bird declines.
The project includes 25 farmers in Denbighshire and Flintshire, each putting up a feeding station and offering supplementary feed through the critical ‘hungry gap’ period from 1 Dec to 30 April,” says Matt, who aims to demonstrate how a very simple technique, with no impact on the daily management of the farm or its productivity, can make a big difference and could be routinely offered in the next agri-environment scheme.
Matt is undertaking advisory visits on each farm, discussing the year-round needs of farmland birds, and highlighting how farms can fine-tune their conservation efforts alongside their farm business.
“Quality habitat provision is still the corner-stone for conserving wildlife,” he says, but warns that it’s not the whole picture. “Supplementary feeding alongside good quality habitat such as a strip of wildlife cover crop has a much greater impact than the habitat alone.”
Although this concept has been proven previously outside of Wales and in an arable setting, Matt is adamant that this conservation practice is transferable to livestock farming in Wales.
“In fact,” says Matt, “Our research suggests that supplementary feeding in a grass-dominated landscape has a magnified impact and benefit compared to the same management in an arable setting due to the lack of seed availability in pastoral farming.
This initiative is only the first step in raising awareness and getting birds fed in the hungry gap, helping to halt the rapid decline in farmland birds seen in the recent past.