Reed Buntings Benefit From Diverse Farming Practices

Reed Bunting17:53 Thursday 16th February 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: The RSPB has paid tribute to farmers near its reserve at Fowlmere in South Cambridgeshire. According to the RSPB, their bird-friendly farming technique has resulted in unprecedented numbers of reed buntings flocking to the Fowlmere reserve. Robert Law is one of those farmers, and he joins me from his arable and sheep filled Thrift Farm. Robert, good evening.
ROBERT LAW: Good evening.
CHRIS MANN: Just tell us, whereabouts are you?
ROBERT LAW: Right. I’m right on the Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire border, and I’m just out from Royston, going towards Baldock.
CHRIS MANN: And what are you doing that’s so good for the birds, and bringing them back?
ROBERT LAW: Well, over the past six or seven years, we’ve planted quite a few areas of special crops for feeding birds. Particularly feeding them over the winter period, when there’s precious little other feed about. And we planted about 60 acres, in about 24 different crops, all round the farm. And this gives a lot of birds, particularly the reed buntings, areas to come and feed on during the day, so they then go back to the Fowlmere reserve, and roost there at night. They wouldn’t be at the Fowlmere reserve if they didn’t have farms like ours to come and feed on during the day on these crops.
CHRIS MANN: And just tell us how to spot a reed bunting.
ROBERT LAW: Well, it’s a very very small bird. And I was in fact out on the reserve yesterday. I can’t actually tell the call, but I was there with the Warden there. And he pointed them out to me, and explained the call to me. But there are literally .. at the end of the day, when they’re coming in to roost, there are literally hundreds of them coming in there. It’s very impressive.
CHRIS MANN: I’m told that just a few years ago, they were .. they’d halved in number .. I think it was about 40 years ago .. they had dropped by 50% over all farmland birds. But now they’re coming back in big numbers. What makes the difference?
ROBERT LAW: Well, it is these crops we’re planting on our farms. About seven, eight years ago, most of our farms in the area were wall to wall wheat and oil seed rape crops. And now we’re devoting certain areas to put these crops in. They’re made up off odd seeds like sorghum, millet, linseed and kale. And these plants, they hold on to the seed over the winter, so the birds can come along and fed on these seeds. And that draws them into the area. And as I say, they come on to our crops during the day. Then they go back to the reserver to roost. And I think, tha last two days at the reserve at Fowlmere, they’ve been getting up to over 1000 birds coming in, whereas a few years ago, they were lucky if they had two to three hundred.
CHRIS MANN: Robert, keep up the good work, and well done. Thank you so much for joining us.

The sound of a reed bunting