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More fields than ever planted to help save farmland birds

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ENDANGERED birds now have even more places to feed over the winter as a scheme run by farmers and conservationists has had its greatest success to date.

The National Trust for Jersey’s Cris Sellarés with Matt Carré in a field in St Ouen’s Bay which has been planted with the special seed mix

More than 80 fields at 17 locations, covering a total area of 270 vergées, across the Island are coming into flower as part of the Birds on the Edge Project, which aims to halt a decline in farmland bird numbers. This is up on last year when 47 fields, totalling 163 vergées were planted.

Birds on the Edge is a collaborative project between the National Trust for Jersey, the Environment Department and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with the aim of creating ideal habitats for farmland birds, which are falling in numbers across Europe and the British Isles.

The decline is blamed on habitat loss and modern farming practices which reduce food sources.

‘This is the year with the most land planted with bird crops since the scheme started,’ project manager Cris Sellarés said.

‘Seven potato farmers are participating this year, and for the first time two landowners have become directly involved in the scheme as well.

‘Birds On the Edge has been implementing winter bird crops and working with farmers since 2013, but these crops had been planted in Jersey for many years before then by The Jersey Royal Company [the Island’s biggest potato growers].’

The seed for this year’s project cost £5,800 with £3,200 coming from Environment’s Countryside Enhancement Scheme. Farmers and landowners made up the difference to make sure that the most important feeding sites were planted this year.

Farmers taking part agree to plant a variety of crops, depending on where the field is and what birds the project is aiming to attract, in between working the land for the annual potato crop.

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The seed mix which includes sunflowers, mustard, kale, quinoa, millet and barley, is planted at the end of the potato season in July to provide food in October and November for migratory birds – such as reed buntings, chaffinches and linnets – that stop over in the Island. The fields also provide food for local species, including the green finch, meadow pipit and skylark, and other wildlife over the winter.

At the moment, as the crop is growing and coming into flower, the plants are providing food for bees and butterflies.

One field, in the heart of St Ouen’s Bay is attracting hundreds of butterflies. It is one of seven fields being worked by the Carré family for Birds on the Edge.

Matt Carré said: ‘It is nice to give something back, especially as everyone says farmers are just taking what they can can from the land. This shows that we do want to put something back and that we are doing something about it.’

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