Feathered Friends; for More Than a Decade, RSPB Cymru and Other Conservationists Have Been Sounding Alarm Bells over Declining Numbers of Many Birds of Farmed Habitats in Wales. Now the Conservation Charity Has Singled out 10 Farmers as Examples of the Many Who Consciously Manage Their Land with Wildlife in Mind. Farming Editor Steve Dube Reports
Byline: Steve Dube
TEN Welsh farmers have been hailed as agri-environment heroes by the RSPB.
The farmers have been singled out for implementing wildlife-friendly measures to help once common birds such as the curlew and lapwing that the latest State of the Birds in Wales report warns could be lost from Welsh farmland over the next decade.
All have signed up to the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme, which they say is vital in enabling them to achieve a balance between food production and environmental stewardship.
Dave Lamacraft, senior farmland bird advisory officer with the RSPB, said it was hard to select the top 10 out of the many farmers keen to help wildlife flourish on their land.
"These 10 farmers show what can be done for wildlife by combining their interest in wildlife and good farm business," he said.
"They set the standard for environmental practice in Wales."
Peter Davies of Slade Farm, Southerndown in the Vale of Glamorgan was an obvious choice, having won the pounds 1,000 RSPB Nature of Farming Award last year with 36% of the public poll.
Peter and his wife Rosamund have farmed the spectacular 335 hectares of coastal and clifftop farm for 30 years and converted to organic in 2000.
The mixed farm includes arable, beef, sheep and outdoor pigs. Stubble from spring cereals is left over winter, ponds and scrapes have been dug, wild bird cover is grown and there are stream-side corridors and wildlife corridors connecting woodlands.
The habitats support a wealth of wildlife, providing food in winter and spring, and safe nesting sites for declining birds such as skylarks, tree sparrows and yellowhammers.
Careful management on the farm has improved the land so well that choughs, which had been absent from Glamorgan for more than 100 years have returned to nest.
Other important wildlife includes great-crested newts, brown hares and lesser horseshoe bats.
"Farming is a wonderful and rewarding way of life, which requires a great deal of care and respect for nature," says Peter.
"The strength of my farm is that all the key elements - cattle, crops and wildlife - complement each other."
Richard and Lyn Anthony of Tythegston Farm, Bridgend, have been managing their 849-hectare lowland mixed farm since 1997 for sheep and arable crops.
The arable land is cultivated using minimum tillage techniques and includes spring beans and cereals, with stubble left over winter, and wildlife cover crops.
The Anthonys joined Tir Gofal in 2003 and the agreement includes a special project for lapwings.
Lapwing conservation is a key part of the farming system and influences many farm decisions.
Mustard is sown in early March at a light density to provide bare earth for lapwings to nest and some cover for the chicks.
Water levels have been raised in one of the grassland fields to provide chick rearing habitat.
"We get great enjoyment from seeing rare birds such as lapwings and skylarks thriving," said Richard.
Nigel and Karen Elgar of Cannon Farm, Welshpool, have run their 371-hectare upland beef and sheep farm since 1986. …