Tim Breitmeyer is a Cambridgeshire farmer and Deputy President of the CLA.
At this time of year it is a delight to see and hear the farmland birds as we farmers go about our morning tasks, especially in the knowledge that our work will support them during these winter months when temperatures are low and their food sources are sparse.
In Cambridgeshire and across England, farmland bird populations began a period of decline in the 1970s. Species which have particularly suffered include the grey partridge, lapwing, skylark, yellowhammer and corn bunting. It would be devastating if any of these wonderful species were to disappear completely from our landscape.
There were a number of reasons for the decline, and modern agricultural techniques may have been a contributing factor. But farmers and land managers are playing a critical role in reversing the trend and boosting farmland bird populations again, working hard to ensure we can all continue to enjoy the distinctive markings of a yellowhammer and hear the call of a lapwing.
On my own estate, we farm 1,600 acres of wheat, spring barley, oil seed rape and sugarbeet, as well as contract-farming a further 3,900 acres.
The farm has been in Entry Level Stewardship and we are about to embark on agreements under the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, some which include provisions during winter for birds to feed on specially grown seed-rich plots, unharvested cereal strips, uncropped areas and overwintered stubbles.
Seed is also put down to help wild birds through ‘the hungry gap’ when natural sources run out.
We also have some 16km of managed hedgerow, 8ha of margins and 60ha of woodland under management on the estate, which can boost insects and fruit sources, and provides refuge for birdlife.
Similarly we allow wild flowers to flourish at field boundaries and in grass margins to boost insect numbers, helping insect-eating birds to survive. Under the new stewardship scheme there will also be areas of 'beetle bank'.
There is a genuine benefit to farm businesses retaining these environmental features as providing habitats for birds, small mammals and insect pollinators can often help improve yield and the quality of crops.
I urge all farmers to use this wonderful opportunity to learn more about the birds on their land. The experience of taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count in previous years has already spurred me on to continue identifying farmland birds much better in my part of Cambridgeshire.
I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for farmland birds this February, and I encourage you to do the same.
The third #BFBC takes place between 6th and 14th February 2016
We're asking people to spend 30 minutes on any one day between the 6th and 14th February recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.
Take part in the Big Farmland Bird Count >