One of the most fun aspects of LEAF farming is keeping track of all the interesting species that live on your farm. I spent the first decade of my farming life concentrating on crops and marketing, so was more interested in learning to identify all the different potato varieties and supermarket buyers than I was in our wildlife. In fact, it is only in the last couple of years, since becoming a LEAF Marque farmer, that I have really developed a passion for what goes on between the crops.
Yesterday we had our third RSPB survey of the year. We have broken our farm into two land blocks for the purpose of the survey. Welland House Farm, which we have farmed for nearly 40 years, is the first block and has lots of hedges, field margins and waterways. On the last survey, 54 different bird species were identified. We will survey this again later this year.
In the last few days, the rest of the farm was surveyed. Although we have been in an environmental stewardship scheme for a few years now, historically this land had not been as wildlife rich and I was unsure how many species we would find. Considering this, I was pleased with the results. The RSPB recorded 48 species during their three visits. I was especially pleased that they saw skylarks, grey partridge, chaffinch, gold finch, great tits, oyster catchers, dunnocks, reed buntings, yellow hammers, yellow and pied wagtails, wrens and whitethroats on every occasion that they visited. RSPB volunteer, John, narrowly avoided standing on a baby skylark in one of the margins!
I cannot praise the work of the RSPB’s volunteers highly enough. They give their time for free to conduct these surveys. I struggle to tell the difference between a swallow, a swift and a house martin and it takes great skill to identify exactly what is there. John was using sound just as much as eyesight.
I hope we can use these results to attract specific species to the farm in the future. Being a member of LEAF will certainly help us focus and demonstrate what we’re doing.
This is a post from LEAF Board Member Matthew Naylor, a flower grower farming with his father, Nev, in Moulton Marsh in Lincolnshire. They are a LEAF Marque farm supplying Waitrose and Marks and Spencer.