Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Help to Build Partridge Families

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Help to Build Partridge Families

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jennifer Mackenzie

A survey has shown the grey partridges of Wark Farm near Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, are on the increase as a result of a range of conservation techniques.

Farmer Jennifer Lovett has joined the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and The Game Conservancy Trust to help the grey partridges - a priority species due to their steep population decline - and other wild birds, using a combination of careful land and game management techniques.

A survey by The Game Conservancy Trust has shown a rise from seven pairs of grey partridges in spring 2002 to 12 pairs in spring 2003 over the selected count area of 101 hectares. Numbers are also increasing over Wark farm's other 304 hectares.

There are an estimated 80,000 pairs of grey partridges left in the UK today. It is a ground-nesting gamebird which favours open arable landscapes and can sometimes be found on the hill fringe. The grey partridge (Perdix perdix) has declined by over 80pc in 30 years.

Miss Lovett signed up to Defra's Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 1999 and since then has put in place several measures, including hedge restoration and creating grass margins, to provide nesting sites for the partridges.

These include a technique pioneered by The Game Conservancy Trust, Conservation Headlands, whereby the crops are selectively sprayed to encourage insects to nourish the young partridges.

The Game Conservancy Trust, an independent wildlife conservation charity, which carries out research into game-associated species and habitat, has also provided advice on predator control and other key practices to ensure the right conditions for the grey partridge.

Hugo Straker, of The Game Conservancy Trust, said: "Wark Farm is a wonderful demonstration of the good work carried out by farmers with the help of funding from Defra's Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

"Farmers such as Jennifer Lovett are playing a crucial role in the Game Conservancy Trust's national Grey Partridge Recovery Programme, whereby our first aim is to arrest the decline and restore numbers to at least what they were 10 years ago.

"Habitat management linked with control of predators is the best way to boost the population of the vulnerable grey partridge and help to secure its future."

Steve Pullan, Countryside Stewardship adviser at Defra's Rural Development Service North-East, said: "Defra is committed to halting the decline in grey partridge and other lowland farmland birds and the increase in numbers of this key species is a clear indication that conditions are improving, not only for grey partridge but other species."

The Countryside Stewardship Scheme offers payments to farmers and land managers to improve the natural beauty and diversity of the countryside.

The scheme operates throughout England outside Environmentally Sensitive Areas. …

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