BUNTING PROJECT REAPING DIVIDENDS
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.