We are very pleased to report our first brood of Grey partridge this season and cautiously take this as an early good omen for the other 28 pairs that we counted in the spring!
However, in order for the pair to bring their fragile brood through the crucial next few weeks, luck with the weather (see Peter Thompson’s most recent blog) combined with the provision of high quality insect-rich foraging habitat is most crucial.
|Habitat mosaic where the first brood of Grey partridges hatched this year.|
We therefore have gone through a great deal of effort and trouble to get where we need to be at this time of the year. To be honest, not all our habitat intended to provide foraging cover looks as it should do, but we are getting better every year as we learn from our mistakes. In conservation jargon we call this 'adaptive management'.
|Location of habitat where first brood hatched from different angle.|
We do of course work hard to control rats all year round, but being located on a mix farm with more than 200 dairy cows, rats are always going to be around unfortunately. We therefore provide our foraging cover in form of uncropped cultivated margins and wild bird seed mixes. The latter also serve as the all essential winter cover.
Key for both types of habitats is that they remain relatively sparse during this time of year to allow the bumble bee-sized chicks easy and dry foraging access. To get things right, a well thought-out management plan needs to be in place.
|The preparation of a good seed bed together with the right timing of drilling are key for the successful re-establishment of wild flower mixes, especially where they are grown at the same location over many years.|
When managing the habitat it is important to do this in a rotation. Never destroy all wild bird mixes in one year but try to re-establish around one third every year instead. At Rotherfield we just re-drilled our wild bird seed mixes last week in early June after some serious preparatory work.
Conservation habitat needs and deserves the same care as arable crops! Fingers crossed we get some more rain (but please not heavy rain!) and no flea beetles to get the habitat growing as it should.
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