Hedging bets over nests
FARMERS are petitioning Defra to reverse the August hedgecutting ban, a move that, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have the backing of some wildlife charities. In 2015, Defra extended the ban, which started on March 1, to September 1 to protect nesting birds, despite farmers saying it’s a pointless exercise as birds have fledged by then. They also observe that local-authority—and private garden— hedges can be cut from August 1 and that contractors, racing to get work done before wet weather and soft ground in September make a mess of the fields, are losing work.
However, a recent analysis by the BTO of 50 farmland-bird species shows that, although 24 of them— thrushes and tits, for instance— were unlikely to have young nesting into August, 14 others have extended breeding seasons. These include birds listed as being of conservation concern, such as the spotted flycatcher, dunnock and linnet.
The BTO’S Dave Leech, who led the study, points out that species such as goldfinch, bullfinch and yellowhammer may still have chicks nesting in September. Dr Leech adds: ‘This is likely to be a conservative estimate of hedgerow use as it can take fledglings a week or two to become proficient at flying, during which time they are likely to be dependent on the cover afforded by the hedge.’
The petition, organised by Farmers Weekly, had 1,100 signatures last week (www.fwi.co.uk/hedge-petition). KG