If you want to understand a subject you must learn to see it from different perspectives. This is particularly true of land use, a topic in which there are as many viewpoints as you can possibly imagine. It’s why I am trying (and there’s a lifetime ahead to learn) to understand both farming and conservation perspectives to reflect on the various ways forward for British land use. Over the past few days I have spent a particularly enjoyable time at the Birdfair, on the shores of Rutland Water. Thousands of birders and conservationists flock to Rutland from across the world. It’s a unique event and I am already looking forward to the next one. Rather like the Oxford Real Farming Conference it’s an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones and learn, in a relaxed atmosphere, what is at the heart of people’s current thinking when it comes to conservation topics. I was pleased to see a few sessions on the programme related to farming. Unfortunately most of these were on the Friday and due to work commitments I was only able to visit the fair on the Saturday and Sunday.
There are several things that I could have written about in my ‘review of Birdfair 2017’, but I think it most useful to focus on a single message, which can be attributed to farmer Nicholas Watts, in his talk on Sunday entitled, simply and clearly, ‘Farming and Wildlife’.
Nicholas spoke about his farming journey. He is an enthusiastic conservationist as much as a farmer, and inspired me personally as I embark on my own similar career. He farms at Vine House Farm, an innovative conservation minded business based in Lincolnshire, focused on growing bird seed. It’s a place I hope to visit in the not too distant future.
He mentioned something that I hope will be acted upon by at least some of those who listened to his talk. He called for birders and conservationists to act for the birds they love and approach their local farmer asking whether they can put up bird feeders on their land and monitor how this affects the bird population. I very much doubt there will be many farmers out there who would turn this offer down. By working together birders and farmers can improve bird populations on farms. Small actions can make a difference. I’ll be keeping the feeders filled on our own farm this winter. I just hope there’ll be hundreds more across the country.