By Tim Furbank, Director at Oakbank Game & Conservation
I often hear people who shoot ‘talking the talk’ when it comes to the conservation benefits that shooting delivers to the countryside but how many of them actually ‘walk the walk’? By that I mean either deliver genuine biodiversity benefits on their own shoots or contribute financially to GWCT research projects.
The grey partridge provides the ultimate case in point. It is a red-listed species i.e. has the highest conservation priority status, and yet we are still allowed to shoot it. How?
Two reasons – firstly due to the passion of a number of people across the UK who provide the habitat and protection to enable this once ubiquitous bird to flourish in order that they can harvest a surplus through shooting each year; and secondly thanks to GWCT science that proves that the highest densities of grey partridges are found on farms and estates that shoot them.
Oakbank works with several farms and estates that strive to produce a shootable surplus of grey partridges and it is a source of some frustration that more shooting people don’t get involved. I am not suggesting for a second that everyone goes ‘wild’ but you can still do your bit for greys alongside releasing pheasants and redlegs to guarantee shooting every year.
Even if grey partridges are not a priority, try to vary your habitat provision for released game as blocks of maize deliver very little for farm wildlife whereas a strip of wild bird seed mix or nectar mix alongside the maize will deliver far more.
If you have any greys on your ground then a concentrated predator control programme in the spring (February – June) combined with some habitat provision for nesting, brood rearing and winter cover will give the birds every chance to breed successfully and remain with you all year round.
And you don’t have to go mad and put half the farm down to partridge habitat! Utilising field margins and unproductive field corners is a good start. Rather than leaving them as plain grass try and get some diversity by using nectar mixes or a few wild flowers and consider adding some chicory +/- kale to deliver winter cover.
Then look at how you are delivering your 5% Environmental Focus Area as that can be very useful partridge habitat and have a proper look at Countryside Stewardship to see if you can get funding to provide extra. Rather than big blocks of cover try and spread the habitat around as many fields as possible so that wherever the partridges choose to nest they are never far from insect-rich habitat and winter cover.
If you want to ‘walk the walk’ and deliver a bit more diversity on your shoot, be it for greys or other farm wildlife then then please give us a call. We can advise on and supply suitable seed mixes, put together a competitive CS application and help with woodland management, including management plans and felling licences.
For more information, please contact Oakbank on 01480 890686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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