The summer, as we all know, was an extremely difficult period for all crops across the UK and the game cover crops at GWSDF Auchnerran were no different. This year marked the second year of focused efforts for establishing beneficial cover crops for both the wild bird shoot and numerous farmland passerines on Auchnerran Farm.
In 2018 four plots were chosen for cultivating, two sites at the southern end of the farm were allocated to contain the Kings Highland Mix again as we had good success with this crop last year. This section of the farm is the main ‘engine room’ of the shoot and the Highland Mix was very useful in holding our wily wild pheasants and providing feed seed, particularly linseed, to all the varied species that utilised the plots.
The other two sites were put into an Uist oat and rye mix kindly donated and broadcasted by a long-standing member and sterling supporter of the GWCT, John Riley. John farms up the road from us in Strathdon and his local knowledge is second to none. He also has been extremely kind in donating barley seed for our hopper feeding programme over the past two years.
These two Uist Mix plots were primarily planted as part of a LIFE Laser Fence trial on rabbit browsing pressure but with added benefis for both the shoot and providing see throughout the long north easterly winter months. Unfortunately, the unfenced experimental crop failed horrendously and is now a large field of thistles, but useful data was collated to reveal that green laser beams failed in deterring high volumes of browsing bunnies in this instance. The control site came away nicely and holds a nice number of siskins, chaffinches and linnets alongside the odd wild pheasant or two coming into the colder months of the year.
We would like to thank Kings for donating the Highland Mix seed again this year with Alan Johnson being on hand for all the necessary technical advice, John Riley for his generous and passionate neighbourly support and lastly DOW for providing agrochemical products for trailing out weed control on our game cover plots in 2018. All the above have helped us further our efforts in enhancing our upland wildlife populations here at GWSDF Auchnerran, demonstrating that it is possible to have a productive farming enterprise working in unison with the natural environment.