8 January 2001
Songthrushes treble on demo farm

By FWi staff

A GOVERNMENT environmental management scheme has helped treble numbers of a declining songbird on a demonstration farm, say ministers.

Nationally songthrush numbers fell by 55% between 1970 and 1998, a decline widely blamed on intensive farming practices.

But careful management at The Game Conservancy Trusts Allerton Project farm at Loddington, Leicestershire has helped the popular songbird make a comeback.

The Trust entered into a Countryside Stewardship Scheme agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture in 1993 to manage hedgerows on its 333ha property.

By 1998 Loddington farm had 48 songthrush territories, compared with just 14 in 1992.

This was announced as the ministry launches a drive for around 3000 new farmer applicants to the scheme before May.

Countryside Minister Elliot Morley said: “I am delighted that our Countryside Stewardship Scheme has played a part in helping songthrushes to return to this area.

“MAFF has a target of reversing the decline in farmland birds by 2020. The Stewardship Scheme – along with the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme – is the way towards this target.”

The Trusts agreement is worth more than 26,000 over 10 years. Together with management of field margins and the planting of crops to provide food for birds.

By 2006 the stewardship scheme budget will have been increased to 126 million – up from 13m in 1997.