Mid December saw Curlew Country hosting a Christmas gathering for farming partners. As well as being a way to thank farmers for their help and support during the 2018 season, the event gave us an opportunity to raise some topics to discuss in order to move forward with Conservation at a landscape scale.
26 farmers attended the event, which started with a Curlew Quiz to test their knowledge and set the mood for the evening. This was followed by a presentation from project manager, Amanda Perkins, on the results from 2018. After this there was a brief talk and discussion about agri-environment schemes and what can be expected from them in the future.
On a more light-hearted track, we tested the farmers knowledge of local farmland bird songs and calls and invited them to take part in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Big Farmland Bird Count. This is a count that takes 30 minutes to do, which can be done by farmers any time between the 8th and 17th of February 2019. More information can be found here: https://www.bfbc.org.uk/
After a warming meal, some apple pie and trials of local beer, 3 of Owen Williams Curlew prints were given loving new homes by way of a draw. After this the room was split into four groups and each given discussion topics to get them thinking about farming and conservation in the future.
With the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Curlew Country wanted to find out what farmers thought they realistically needed to implement curlew friendly farming and all the ancillary environmental measures which farmers have raised during meetings and have said that they are keen to consider. Curlew Country also wished to know which aspects of the work we had already trialled farming partners thought worked or did not work. Whilst many farmers like agri-environment schemes, there was an overwhelming agreement that there needs to be more flexibility within them, not least to make better provision for curlew, as current more rigid schemes mean that many farms are excluded. The point was repeatedly raised that one size does not fit all and new schemes should be tailored so they can fit individual farm businesses whilst delivering environmental benefits.
The evening was a success, with many people with good things to say about the project and with informative discussions about future plans. Farmers’ views are vital to the project, which has always believed that without a secure farm business, farmers cannot make room for wildlife, even if they want to. Curlew Country is feeding back its findings and handing on this information to policy makers.
Plans are now afoot to offer farmers training days on farmland bird ID to help them feel more confident and build on their enthusiasm to participate in the Big Farmland Bird Count in February.