Inch Farm has been a leader in the conservation of corn buntings, reed buntings, and yellowhammers for many years.
The farm has participated in the corn bunting recovery project and voluntarily managed habitat for these birds. In 2016, the farm joined the government-led Agri-Environment Climate Scheme to further protect corn buntings and other species. As a demonstration farm, Inch Farm has welcomed visitors to see the changes that have led to a significant increase in the number of corn bunting, reed bunting, and yellowhammer territories between 2015 and 2018.
Thanks to the efforts at Inch Farm and other conservation projects, corn bunting numbers have more than doubled since their lowest point in 2001 and increased by 70% since 2014. The conservation success of corn buntings in Fife is a testament to the importance of habitat management and protection."
The current Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) is helping to protect corn buntings and other farmland birds in the East Neuk of Fife, a vital stronghold for these birds.
The AECS provides the three key elements that corn buntings need to thrive: winter seed food, summer insect food, and safe nesting places. One of the biggest benefits of the AECS is the availability of a variety of seed food sources throughout the winter, which helps to prevent seed depletion on the farm and ensures that seed is available even in harsh weather conditions when fields may be covered in snow.
By supporting the AECS and other conservation efforts, we can work to protect corn buntings and other important species.
There are many benefits to implementing conservation practices on farms, including the protection of wildlife. One such practice is the preservation of headlands in arable fields by refraining from using herbicides and insecticides, and allowing crops to remain in the ground over the winter. This allows for the growth of a diversity of arable plants, which can provide food and habitat for insects, birds, and small mammals. By implementing these and other conservation measures, we can help to create a thriving ecosystem on farms that supports a wide range of species.
One way to support arable plants and provide food and habitat for farmland birds is to grow blocks of seed-bearing crop mixtures under low-input management. These wild bird seeds can provide grubs and insects for birds during the summer, and then in the winter and spring, the crop will provide both seeds and cover for birds to forage and shelter.
By choosing the right wild bird seeds and incorporating them into our farming practices, we can create a more supportive and sustainable ecosystem for a variety of species.
Brassica crops can play an important role in supporting arable plants and providing food and habitat for farmland birds.
When grown under low-input management, brassica crops can provide grubs and insects for birds during the growing season, as well as valuable cover for birds to shelter in during the winter. By incorporating brassica crops into our farming practices, we can help to create a more supportive and sustainable ecosystem for a variety of species.
Green manure is a valuable tool for supporting wildlife, pollinating insects, and other invertebrates throughout the cropping year. Not only does green manure provide food and cover for these species, it also protects the soil and improves its biodiversity, fertility, carbon content, and structure.
Using green manure is a simple yet effective way to create a more sustainable and supportive ecosystem on the farm.
Located at the edges of arable fields, connect habitats, provide important cover and food for birds and small mammals, as well as flowers for pollinating insects. They can also help improve water quality by preventing soil erosion, intercepting surface water run-off, and improving soil structure.
Leaving stubble until early spring protects soils, will allow a variety of arable plants to develop, providing food and cover for insects, birds, and small mammals. In particular, spilt grain and arable plant seeds provide valuable food for farmland birds.
The AECS scheme plays a very important role in the wider landscape as it is in the center of the corn buntings’ heartland in Fife. As corn buntings prefer to remain local it is of great importance to provide for their needs close to their home farms. The farm also ties in with a network of other farms in the area which manage for corn buntings through AECS or on a voluntary basis (through greening) providing the big three on a true landscape scale. Finally, some changes in farming systems in the wider landscape will lead to the loss of a range of arable habitats which were historically very well used by corn buntings. It is not clear yet whether the change to grass-based systems nearby will have an impact on corn bunting distribution but at this stage it is important to keep a good mix of high-quality arable habitats for corn buntings in the area to allow them to adapt gradually to the changes.