Farmers join Biggleswade initiative to help declining owl population

PUBLISHED: 08:30 24 November 2017

Farmer Ralph Parker has enlisted in The Jordans Farm Partnership.

Farmer Ralph Parker has enlisted in The Jordans Farm Partnership.


More than 40 farmers have joined an initative started in Biggleswade to help support the barn owl population, which has dropped 35 per cent according to the latest figures from ornithologists.

The Jordans Farm Partnership by the team at Jordans Mill is designed to promote sustainable farming with a commitment to give more than 10 per cent of the company’s farmland to British wildlife.

Data from the British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Survey stated that has been an estimated 35 per cent decline in the barn owl population between 2015 and 2016.

This is something Farmer Ralph Parker, from across the border in Cambridgeshire, is keen to help the scheme, which started as a pilot earlier this year.

Mr Parker, who grows cereals for Jordans, has a dedicated wildflower meadow where barn owls can be seen hunting in the late evening as well as an annually cultivated plot that is monitored for breeding lapwings.

And it’s not just animals Mr Parker – who has been farming in Litlington for 20 years at Highfield Farm, carrying on what his family started in the 1960s, is working to support.

Some of the rarer flower species, such as Rough Poppy and Dwarf Spurge are also thriving in the hedgerows.

He said the attraction of bees, butterflies and other insects by these efforts to cultivate the flora also has a positive knock-on effect.

“Many of these insects are important to farmers as they help to control pests, pollinate crops and build soil fertility, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilisers,” he said.

“I believe it is vital to conserve the local wildlife for future generations to enjoy.”

Sian Williams, Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire conservation officer, said: “The Wildlife Trust has worked together with Mr Parker to produce a farm plan which makes the most of the opportunities for the land to provide habitat for the species we know are important to protect.

“A range of farmland bird species are thriving on the farm and the plan helps to make sure they will continue to have year-round food, shelter and nesting habitat.”
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