Wednesday 18 October 2017 07:11:34 PM

East Down Farmers Offered Free Wildlife Survey By The RSPB
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East Down farmers are being offered free surveys by the RSPB to discover which birds and wildlife have found homes on their land and learn what can be done to help protect them.

East County Down has been selected as the charity’s focus area in Northern Ireland as it is a stronghold for priority seed-eating birds like the yellowhammer and linnet, both of which have declined in the UK and Ireland mainly due to a loss of seed-rich habitat.

The RSPB is offering a free wildlife audit on east Down farms.

The RSPB is offering a free wildlife audit on east Down farms.

The 2013 State of Nature Report  found that 60 per cent of farmland species assessed have declined over the last 50 years. Specialist birds like the reed bunting have suffered most due to their dependence on specific habitats.

RSPB NI Project Officer Hayley Sherwin commented:  “The priority seed-eating birds that we are targeting through this work have three main requirements – a summer insect source, a winter seed source and suitable nesting habitat.

“If one of these requirements is lost or depleted, the birds will find survival increasingly difficult especially during the winter when food is already in short supply.”

Last year more than 20 farmers across east Down received free wildlife surveys delivered by trained volunteers.

One of those farmers, Derek Robinson from Killinchy, commented: “I found the survey highly educational and hugely rewarding – I didn’t realise I had such a diversity of bird species around me!

“The survey rekindled my enthusiasm for birds and wildlife on the farm and heightened my awareness of suitable habitat and feeding sites.”

Yellowhammers are under pressure in County Down (photo by Tom Marshall).

Yellowhammers are under pressure in County Down (photo by Tom Marshall).

Surveys will be delivered between late April and mid-July and, when complete, farmers will receive tailored advice on how to best manage the habitat for the species recorded. The surveys will be repeated on a three year basis to monitor the wildlife populations.

The State of Nature report has also highlighted declines in local butterfly populations of around 32 per cent. RSPB NI, working in partnership with Butterfly Conservation Northern Ireland, also offers a free butterfly survey later in the season.

Volunteer surveyor, Suzanne Belshaw, carried out both bird and butterfly surveys last year.

She said: “During my return visits to a County Down farm later in the season the oil seed rape fields were full of white butterflies.

“Unperturbed by my presence, a two inch long common hawker dragonfly rested at my feet and small copper, speckled wood and peacock butterflies feasted in the hedgerows!”

With less funding now being made available for agri-environment schemes it’s more important than ever that farmers and landowners protect the birds and wildlife that their land supports.

Advisory support by the RSPB can help them make the most of their land – both for production and wildlife.

If you live in east County Down and would like to receive a free wildlife survey on your farm or if you are interested in becoming a volunteer surveyor, contact Hayley Sherwin on:

028 9049 1547

or email at :

[email protected]