20 June 2013

Environment minister goes that extra mile for conservation

David Wiggins, gamekeeper receives the GWCT’s Grey Partridge Trophy on behalf of the Englefield Estate in recognition of the inspiring conservation efforts being carried out for the benefit of wild grey partridgesEnvironment minister Richard Benyon MP, has gone that extra mile for wildlife on his Englefield Estate in Berkshire by establishing miles and miles of vital insect-rich habitats for one of our most threatened farmland birds.

In recognition of this impressive achievement the estate has been awarded a prestigious conservation trophy by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) for succeeding in the battle to help save the rapidly declining wild grey partridge.

In the past five years, the Englefield estate’s team have established an impressive amount of insect-rich habitat on the farm including five miles of pollen and nectar strips, over four miles of flower-rich grass margins and more than 6 miles of weedy cereal margins – all aimed at offering a crucial life-line for wild grey partridges and their chicks.

Research by the GWCT over four decades shows that creating a range of year-round habitats such as nesting, insect-rich areas for chicks and over-winter cover are crucial for helping to save this red-listed species. Insect-rich habitats in particular are vital for young chicks when they first hatch because they need at least 2000 insects per day to thrive but very often this is the one important but missing component on modern farmland.

The wild grey partridge is one of our fastest declining farmland bird species. This once common bird has disappeared from large tracts of the countryside and its population has dropped from over a million pairs in the 1950s to under 50,000 pairs. The GWCT has spent many years researching the reasons behind this dramatic decline and have developed scientifically based recommendations that are now enabling landowners to kick-start a recovery programme.

Environment Minister, Richard Benyon is passionate about conservation and in 2008 he dedicated 1,000 acres of his estate in Berkshire to an inspiring recovery programme on his farm. The results have been outstanding and in recognition of this achievement the Englefield Estate was awarded the GWCT’s Cotswold Grey Partridge Trophy sponsored by Ruffer LLP. The trophy is presented each year to the farm or estate that has contributed most to the conservation of grey partridges in the region.

In awarding this prestigious silver trophy of a grey partridge, GWCT Biodiversity Advisor Peter Thompson, said, “In just five years the Englefield Estate has managed to increase grey partridges from just two pairs to 31 pairs this spring. An important aspect of this project is that other wildlife is benefiting from this sympathetic regime too. Lapwings are now breeding on the land with 30 pairs counted this spring and the brown hare population is also flourishing. Nest boxes for tree sparrows have also been installed and it is hoped that the local population will expand over the next few years. We are really delighted with this result and congratulate Richard Benyon and his team, particularly David Wiggins, the estate’s gamekeeper for this impressive achievement.”

The presentation of the trophy took place on Macaroni Farm in Gloucestershire, the winner of the GWCT’s Cotswold grey partridge trophy last year. Charles Phillips and his son Sam, who run this 680 hectare organic farm are also passionate about saving their partridges and have devoted 17 per cent of the farm to conservation measures under the Government’s Higher Level Scheme, which benefit partridges as well as a range of other threatened wildlife species such as corn buntings.

David Wiggins, gamekeeper receives the GWCT’s Grey Partridge Trophy on behalf of the Englefield Estate in recognition of the inspiring conservation efforts being carried out for the benefit of wild grey partridges

Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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