BUNT­ING PROJECT REAP­ING DIV­I­DENDS

Bird Watching (UK) - - News -

The Cirl Bunt­ing, one of Bri­tain’s most threat­ened farm­land birds, has con­tin­ued its trend-buck­ing come­back from near ex­tinc­tion. Its UK pop­u­la­tion, con­cen­trated in the south-west of Eng­land, has now reached more than 1,000 pairs, largely due to a 25-year RSPB project. Un­der the Cirl Bunt­ing Re­cov­ery Pro­gramme, ad­vis­ers worked with farm­ers to help them take up Coun­try­side Stew­ard­ship schemes, that al­lowed the farm­ers to be paid for mak­ing wildlife-friendly choices. Op­tions ex­plored by the farm­ers in­cluded grow­ing spring bar­ley that, af­ter har­vest, pro­vided weedy stub­ble for food in the colder months, and plant­ing in­sect-en­cour­ag­ing grass­land mar­gins to pro­vide food for the sum­mer. The ini­tia­tive has led to an amaz­ing eight-fold in­crease in UK Cirl Bunt­ing num­bers, and it is hoped that num­bers will con­tinue to climb. Cirl Buntings aren’t the only ones to ben­e­fit from this pro­gramme; Lin­nets, Sky Larks and Yel­lowham­mers all ben­e­fit from the land use changes, as do mam­mals, such as Brown Hares. Martin Harper, RSPB con­ser­va­tion di­rec­tor, said that the Cirl Bunt­ing’s re­cov­ery was a “re­mark­able suc­cess” and cred­ited much of it to the in­put of the farm­ers in­volved, and the sup­port of the govern­ment.

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