RSPB Recommendations

Recommendations for Townhead & Littleton Farms

1. Wetland Creation

When wetland is created the best way to attract wildlife would be simply to leave the wetland ground bare. Desirable and suitable vegetation (e.g. reeds) often colonises such habitat relatively quickly. If you decide to plant the area with shrubs, then use native species and try to keep them to the northern banks. The south facing banks will therefore receive plenty of light – ideal for a future species-rich grassland area. Try to avoid straight edges to the wetland – by creating an 'untidy', varied edge, you will create numerous small pools that could provide excellent breeding pools for a whole host of invertebrates. I've included some pages from a manual which should be of use when planning this area.

2. Overwinter stubbles

You are already keeping your stubbles in until March or April, which is great. Research has suggested that if around 10% of farmland is kept as overwinter stubbles, then this could provide enough seed-rich habitat to sustain the local seed-eating bird population over the winter months. The fact that you operate a minimum tillage system will likely increase these benefits over the winter months. Should you look to do so in the future, you can use up your Land Managers Options (LMO) allowance on winter stubbles, which pays at a rate of £96/hectare/year.

3. Seeded Ryegrass

There have been studies that have shown several priority species use ryegrass fields over the winter months if the ryegrass has been allowed to set seed. Typically this involves not taking a final cut of silage during the summer. The quality of the forage is typically reduced the following spring, but if the field is due to be re-seeded anyway, and you can wait until the following spring to re-seed, then this could provide further seed-rich habitat over the winter months.

4. Hedgerow Management

Some lengths of hedgerows have become quite 'gappy' in places. I have included an advice sheet on managing hedgerows for wildlife. As you'll see, the best hedgerows for wildlife typically involve A-shaped structures with thick bases. This provides a dense base which attracts nesting birds. There are several different techniques you could use to try and rejuvenate sections of hedgerow, including coppicing and planting up the gaps. If you are interested in looking at hedgerow management in more detail, then I would really recommend the website which has loads of information and tips on managing hedgerows.

5. Wild Bird Cover

We looked at a piece of ground between the woodland and burn that could be an ideal place to sow a plot of wild bird cover. As discussed, it can be sown in places to straighten awkward field corners. Wild bird cover plots provide great habitat for invertebrates during the spring and summer, and a seed-rich habitat over the winter months. I have included our advice sheet on wild bird cover for more information. Wild Bird Cover can be funded through LMOs at a payment rate of £391/hectare/year. If you would like to see wild bird cover in action, then I would recommend visiting our Mersehead nature reserve. Last year several hundred finches and buntings turned up to feed in the WBC plots down there. Our Warden at Mersehead is Ben Mitchell, and I'm sure he would be more than happy to show you the WBC plots down there.

6. Tree Sparrow Nest Boxes

The lack of available nesting holes has been identified as one of the factors in the decline of the UK tree sparrow population. I have included advice on constructing and erecting tree sparrow nest boxes should it be of interest.

7. Woodland Management

As Allie pointed out, several plant species present in your woodlands are indicators of ancient woodland. Planting some native shrubs in the more open areas could enhance the woodland, and I enclose a list of native species. Perhaps the most pressing management in that area however would be to control the rhododendron.

I hope the enclosed information is of interest. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if we can provide any further information on any of the above – we're here to help! It would be good to hear how you get on, and we'll be in touch in the future regarding another bird survey through our Volunteer & Farmer Alliance project.