BIRDING THE LUNE ESTUARY, THE FOREST OF BOWLAND AND BEYOND.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Set-aside.

A few brief notes about the Linnet and how they - and many other farmland species - could be helped but don't seem to be. 

Linnets. John Bateman.

The Linnet - a widespread though declining species in Great Britain - is referred to in our area as fairly common but scarce in winter. In Oakes day in Lancashire he considered it to be a common and widespread resident, particularly abundant on the coastal plains both north and south of the Ribble. Today there are many aspects of the status of the Linnet which remain unclear including the breeding status since the 1970's. The bird is recorded in most of  GB but not in the Highlands of Scotland, Shetland, and large parts of the Hebrides. Many Linnets remain around the breeding sites throughout the winter, whilst others undertake extensive movements to winter as far south as Gibraltar.

The Linnet is a bird with the need  for shrubby vegetation to provide safe communal roosting sites and for seeds which can be collected either in low-growing shrubs, herbaceous vegetation, or on the ground. The dependence of the Linnet on seeds has left them vulnerable to the effects of intensive agricultural intensification. But there is a great deal of confusion in the reasons behind the decline of the Linnet population and one of many suggestions is that hedgerow management - how tidy they all are when trimmed down to size - could play a large part in that nests are much less concealed and therefore more prone to predation.

Set-aside at Cockersands. Pete Woodruff. 

One thing for sure is that the almost tiny set-aside at Cockersands developed last summer - when I took the photograph above - has proved beyond doubt the importance of this kind of exercise. This small area of winter seed was initially taken up by Greenfinch and Linnet in mid October 2010 and a count of in excess of 100 birds was made by me on 15 November since which at least 70 Linnets have remained to this day whilst curiously the Greenfinch deserted the area completely.

So, can we have some more set-aside please, more to the point....why haven't we!

3 comments:

Warren Baker said...

Pete,
The price of grain went up, which dwarfed the subsidy paid for setaside. The farmers suddenly are losing interest in setaside!

Fleetwood Birder said...

As you are probably aware Pete setaside doesn't exist anymore. The EU has set the setaside quota at zero percent. The setaside you are referring to is actually an area of wildbird seed mix created and managed under a Higher Level Stewardship agreement. We haven't had any setaside for a few years now.

Setaside was never introduced to create habitat for wildlife, it was to try and reduce over-production. However, the setaside land did prove atractive to farmland birds as you know and at the moment the threat of compulsory setaside does hang over UK agriculture unless the farming industry can prove that it can achieve a target of 180,000 ha of land taken out of production and managed for wildlife through CFE (Campaign for the Farmed Environment), plus other targets. If you aren't already aware of this have a look at http://www.cfeonline.org.uk/ to find out more.

In France the government took a different option and have introduced compulsory setaside that will be implemented on a sliding scale in terms of the land taken out of production and managed for wildlife over the next few years.

Personally I favour the UK approach as I think a 'carrot' is always better than a 'stick', but it will be up to the farming industry to demonstrate that they can deliver, otherwise the government will use the stick.

In respect of Warren's comment I think you have to remember Warren that farming is an industry and it has been driven by price, new technologies and increased mechanisation just like any other industry. Unfortunately this increased mechanisation and technology has had an effect on farmland wildlife and it isn't individual farmers who are to blame but as I say it is the way the industry has changed.

The next few years are going to be critical and we need to be able to produce food as efficiently as possible but in a way that leaves room for wildlife. Some clever solutions are needed I feel.

Cheers,

Seumus

Pete Woodruff said...

An excellent response to 'Set-aside' and in fact as I posted it I had an underlying feeling you'd come in on this Seumus and my many thanks for doing so.

An interesting insight into the if/buts and does/don'ts about the subject to which many visitors to Birds2blog will now have the benefit of your knowledge on these matters.

I'm sure Warren will have heeded what you said to him, hes a dedicated patch-worker and I reckon a good listener as well as one of my many supporters to the blog.