Surveys help show how farms can work for wildlife

Surveys help show how farms can work for wildlife

Arcadian Ecology, the Trust’s ecological consultancy, are carrying out surveys on Vitacress farms this summer, looking to understand how wildlife is using their sites at present, and how they could be further enhanced for wildlife in the future.

The surveys are being delivered as part of Vitacress’ Farm Excellence scheme, a partnership between Vitacress, a number of Wildlife Trusts including ourselves, and LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming). They will help us understand baselines for the farmed sites – this is the level conservation efforts hope to improve on. They will also note any species that might require specific management to increase their populations.

The surveys consist of walking the sites to map the habitats present and record certain species. The land covered includes both farmed land and marginal habitats like hedgerows, grassland and trees. Our ecologists will then report on the species and habitats they found; stating those which are a priority for conservation or are threatened with declines. They will make a list of suggestions to improve the sites for wildlife and recommend future surveys to help monitor the wildlife on the farms.

Once the surveys have happened, the farm managers will meet with the ecologists and their own Environmental Manager to draw up a plan of what can be done in the next couple of years and which actions will be more long-term - known as a biodiversity management plan. The surveys and subsequent management for wildlife help ensure Vitacress is a sustainable farm business with maximum value for wildlife. The work also helps farms like Vitacress lead the industry and push other farms to follow their lead.

Some of the wildlife the ecologists might record on their visits include bats, butterflies and even hares on some farms.

Brown hares and yellowhammer are two farmland species which have been seen on this years surveys. The yellowhammer has the famous ‘little bit of bread and butter and no cheese’ call, singing often from a prominent perch in trees or hedges.

Both beautiful and banded demoiselle have also been seen around the waterbodies on the sites during surveys. The males have either fully or banded black wings and jewel-coloured bodies.

By sustainably managing farmland and creating areas on the margins with benefits for wildlife – such as wild bird seed plots and wildflower patches – nature has the chance to recover outside of specifically protected areas like nature reserves. These linked habitats form a nature recovery network, where species can move safely and freely in the landscape.

All profits made by Arcadian, including income from working with partners such as Vitacress, goes back into the Trust’s work. So not only do these surveys help build a nature recovery network around the farms, but they also help protect valuable sites for wildlife like the Trust’s nature reserves.