News in Brief

Big Farmland Bird Count

The results of the fourth Big Farmland Bird Count that took place in February have been published by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. A total of 975 farmers took part, recording 240,000 birds across 316,996 hectares. Of the 112 species in this year’s count, 22 are on the list of ‘threatened’ farmland birds. Eight species on the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern, including fieldfare, starling, house sparrow, song thrush and yellowhammer, were among the 25 most abundant birds spotted during the 2017 count.

However, the latest State of the UK’s Birds 2016 published by the RSPB shows continuing decline.  Whilst 22 species moved from amber to green status, 15 species were added to the red list.

Bird Flu Restrictions Relaxed

The risk of spread of avian influenza has been downgraded by Defra. The UK’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said, while the H5N8 strain of bird flu that caused more than 1,000 outbreaks across Europe this winter may remain in the environment, the danger of cross contamination had subsided.  As a result, birds still subject to compulsory housing orders across England have been allowed back outside from 13th April. This is good news for producers of free range eggs as the enforced housing caused problems with the description of the eggs at point of sale.

LEAF and FACE to Merge

Plans for two of the leading farming and food educational organisations to merge have been announced. LEAF (Linking the Environment and Farming) will come together with FACE (Farming and Countryside Education) to gain economies in administration and strengthen their joint education strategy. LEAF exists to promote sustainable farming through programmes such as Integrated Farm Management, the LEAF Marque on sustainably farmed products and Open Farm Sunday, to be held this year on 11th June. FACE is the leading educational charity helping school children to visit farms and understand the connection between farming and their daily lives.

Threat of Drought this Summer

Following the driest winter for twenty years, fears are growing that we may experience a drought in the coming summer. Although there was some rainfall in March, April has been exceptionally dry and warm with above average temperatures and very few of the traditional showers. Spring sown crops are struggling to establish whilst good seedbeds on heavier soils for the maize crop will be hard to achieve without some rain to weather the clods and provide moisture for germination. However, bear in mind that the last time there were warnings of drought at this time of year, in the spring of 2012, the summer turned into a deluge with widespread floods!