Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Farm bird survey

Ready for a bird survey

Ready for a bird survey

Taking money, as we do, from the EU through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, sometimes bothers me. Partly that’s due to a bit of guilt in taking public money for what could be seen as private gain and partly because it’s got to be better not to be so reliant on a grant that inevitably will end at some point. However, Stewardship has done great things for us or more accurately it has allowed us to do some really good things for the landscape of the bit of Bedfordshire that we look after. Without it I don’t think we would have had the courage to venture  into beef production in our small-scale, extensive and local way.

There’s no doubt that conversion of the farm to grass without the use of loads of nutrients, and the planting and management of hedgerows has done good things, not only for the way our valley looks, but also for the population of birds that live here. People we talk to locally are always very positive about the landscape and the new paths that have been created through the scheme.  Because several neighbours are involved in Stewardship too, their arable margins, managed hedges, beetle banks and the like have created a network of rather wonderful habitats that support a wide range of birds, and presumably invertebrates. Barn owls, buzzards, blue butterflies abound.

Last week we were visited by an undergraduate student from the University of Hertfordshire who was out to compare bird species found on farms that take part in and don’t take part in Stewardship of one type or another. Charlotte dropped in last Thursday for a cup of tea before heading out for an hour’s walk around our fields. It was good to hear such enthusiasm from someone embarking on a career – well, she said all the right things anyway!

It’s always good to receive positive words about what we’re doing, so thanks for your last email Charlotte. She was kind enough to pass on a bird list, which I’ve added below, just in case you’re interested. If you’re out around here at any point, we are always interested to hear about what you see in the way of birds and any other wildlife; so please get in touch.

Charlotte’s list (30/12/11)

Wood pigeon 16, Jackdaw 19, Crow 2, Blue tit 32, Green woodpecker 4 (two pairs), Blackbird 6, Fieldfare 27, Rook 2, Collard dove 3, Robin 5, Starling 3, Magpie 1, Great tit 3, Chaffinch 5, Kingfisher 1, Pheasant 1, Long tailed tit 17, Song thrush 2, Red kite 1, Wren 1, Dunnock 1

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