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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Turtle Dove Research Project

The first thing that anyone visiting the farm sees at the moment as they drive down the farm drive is a large area of Mayweed. This is in fact deliberate and part of an RSPB study into the effectiveness of an autumn sown Wild Bird Seed Mix. This mix has been specially designed by Kings and contains arable weeds which lose out to dense crops and effective herbicides in arable crops.

Turtle Dove in Westhorpe

The mix contains Common Fumitory, Black Meddick, Common Mouse Ear, Common Vetch and Red and White Clover and is designed to provide small-seed eaters such as Turtle Doves a food source as soon as they arrive from wintering in Africa. The dry conditions in the spring have meant that the plants have suffered and struggled to establish well. The mayweed seems to be well suited to the dry conditions and it is interesting to note the difference between the 6 plots totalling 2 hectares. The more shaded areas which are slightly wetter have a better covering of Fumitory and Common Vetch and the dryer areas more mayweed. There is very little of the other plants especially clover. Incidentally clover seems to be doing well in the grass margins and areas of Pollen and Nectar Mix where there is more of a grass covering. Walking in the mixes today the Common Vetch, Fumitory and Mayweed are alive with Bumblebees, Honey bees, Hoverflies, Ladybirds and many other Butterflies, Insects and Spiders. 

The RSPB study can be found on http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/details.aspx?id=tcm%3A9-256893 but it involves watching, monitoring, ringing, radio tagging, nest finding and alot of listening for the unmistakable purring sound that is the Turtle Dove song. We are delighted to assist with a research project of this type as we feel that in is important to put all of the benefits of the work that we are doing to good use. By having tall hedges and areas of tall scrub we are providing the ideal nesting habitat for Turtle Doves and in recent years they have not let us down. Last year we were able to each and ring 5 adult birds at sites in Westhorpe and Gislingham which is not bad considering there was only 28 ringed in the UK in 2010.

These plots will be down for two years and hopefully will give us and the RSPB a greater understanding of the feeding and breeding habits of these birds which have declined by over 90% since 1970.

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