by Roger Draycott, Head of Advisory
Welcome to our new blog, which is all about our exciting wild game restoration project at Rotherfield in Hampshire.
We are working with the owners who are passionate about farming and wildlife and share our ambitious aims - to bring back a viable population of grey partridges to an area where they had gone extinct. We also want to demonstrate how modern farming under an HLS Agri-environment Scheme together with legal predator management can allow for a wild gamebird shoot and how this approach leads to significant biodiversity benefits.
The project started in 2010 when Malcolm Brockless, the GWCT wild bird keeper, moved from the grey partridge recovery project at Royston in Hertfordshire to Rotherfield and started ‘keepering’ on one half of the estate.
To provide shooting in the early years of the project while the wild pheasant and partridge stocks build up, Malcolm has been releasing 600 cock pheasants using an extensive releasing technique which we will describe in future blogs. This has enabled us to provide a dozen or so driven and walked up days each year based predominantly on a mixture of wild and released cock pheasants only.
Beetle bank with autumn and spring established cultivated uncropped margin on both sides of the
project core area. These provide refuge for insects, encourage arable flora and provide suitable foraging
cover for farmland birds such as skylarks and grey partridges during the breeding season.
Wildlife is thriving alongside the shoot – last autumn we counted over 100 wild grey partridges!
Lots of other wildlife is benefiting too including farmland birds like yellowhammers, skylarks, linnets and barn owls. Hares, harvest mice and butterflies are on the increase too.
Detailed wildlife monitoring is co-ordinated by Dr Francis Buner, Lead scientist and project co-ordinator and this blog will provide regular updates on how wildlife is faring through the seasons.
Ensuring we have all the right habitats in place and correctly managed is vital and this blog will have information and top tips on habitat creation and management from a wide range of perspectives including GWCT staff, the estate owners, farm staff and Oakbank Game & Conservation, who we are working with to ensure we are providing the best wildlife habitats.
We hope you'll enjoy keeping up to date with this project as we enter the next phase – to further improve the habitat, wild game and other wildlife and recover the grey partridge numbers to a level where a sustainable harvest could be achieved.
Now that would be really special!