Hedg­ing bets over nests

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

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

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