Angus farmers helping to save bird species

Actions by Angus farmers are responsible for the improved fortunes of corn buntings.

Pic: Hywel Maggs
Actions by Angus farmers are responsible for the improved fortunes of corn buntings. Pic: Hywel Maggs

Farmers in Angus have been heralded as saviours of one of Scotland’s fastest declining birds.

Actions by farmers are responsible for improved fortunes of corn buntings.

Winter seed food and other management deployed on a number of farms and estates in Angus as part of the Corn Bunting Recovery Project have changed the fortunes of this iconic species.

The survey work earlier this year saw the highest increase in corn bunting numbers in any single year since monitoring began: between 2015 and 2016, the number of territories increased by 18 per cent, from 62 to 73 on participating farms.

Birds had also recolonised areas, where they hadn’t been seen in years.

Corn buntings in Angus can look forward to a good 2017 as all corn buntings in that county will have access to the ‘Big Three’: safe nesting spaces, winter seed food and summer insect food for the chicks within one mile of their breeding territories from next year onwards.

Neil McEwan is the latest farmer to join the Corn bunting Recovery Project in Angus. He said: “We are very happy to start working alongside the RSPB Scotland and other local farmers by filling in the last food gap for the corn bunting in Angus. These birds were in rapid decrease in the area but thanks to all the corn bunting management in the region as well as Yvonne and her team and we have seen them stabilise.”

This good news comes after decades of dramatic declines for the UK corn bunting population. In Eastern Scotland numbers fell by 83 per cent between 1989 and 2007, earning them the unfortunate accolade of being one of the fastest declining birds in Scotland.

Farmers and land managers are using a combination of agri-environment scheme options, voluntary action and upgraded greening measures to help make the future of this iconic bird in Scotland more secure. 34 farms as well as the East Neuk Estates Group are currently involved in the Corn Bunting Recovery Project in two of the last corn bunting strongholds.

Yvonne Stephan is a conservation advisor for RSPB Scotland and helps run the Corn Bunting Recovery Project. She said: “I am delighted about the positive developments for corn buntings. It’s exciting times for everybody who likes corn buntings and I am looking forward to 2017, which I hope will be another really good year for those lovely birds.”