RSPB NI launches bespoke project to halt the decline of iconic bird species on the Causeway Coast

Farmers in the region can now access one-to-one advice and support to help make space for nature on their working land.

This project is part of the Ecological Farming Program (EFS) funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). EFS provides financial incentives to farmers to implement wildlife conservation measures on their land. As part of the scheme, farmers can also apply for a range of land improvements, including new fencing, bracken, reed or scrub control to help deliver their plan.

RSPB NO currently works with more than 400 farmers in the Northern Ireland. This new group project is titled Causeway Coast The Farmland Bird Initiative aims to advise and support farmers from Portballintre to Torr Head, including Rathlin Island, to join the EFS and fulfill their agreement, helping to achieve the best outcomes for the farm and nature.

Causeway Bank. Image: Andy Hay.

Claire Barnett, RSPB NI Eastern Region Manager, said: “The Causeway Coast is made up of a unique mosaic of habitats such as seaside cliffs, lowland meadows and heathland. This is an important area for many species of agricultural birds, whose survival depends on this landscape.

“Agro-ecological schemes are a key mechanism in delivering the birds that breed here to iconic farmland. If the right mix of eco-agriculture scheme options are targeted in the right places, combined with specialist advice, species such as rockrose and basil can return to benefit the wider community.

“This is a welcome development for the Causeway Coast as this kind of one-to-one support for farmers to access an organic farming scheme has not been available here before. By introducing this group project, we hope that farmers of all sizes and scales across the region will get involved in the Scheme and help secure key agricultural bird species while protecting important farmland habitats.”

The Causeway Coast Farmland Bird Initiative encourages farmers to apply for the Eco-Farming Program at both wider and higher levels and, supported by RSPB NI’s experienced farmland advisors, access demonstrations, site visits and a range of resources to gain a better understanding scheme implementation and benefits. The group also enables farmers to work together in a co-ordinated landscape approach to halt and reverse the decline of some of Northern Ireland’s most iconic birds in coastal areas.

Claire continued: “Birds are a good indicator of environmental health. The decline of birds on our farmland is alarming, but by working together we can reverse this trend. The three main needs of farm birds are a safe place to nest, food in the spring and summer for the growing chicks, and food and shelter in the winter. These needs can be met through a range of grazing regime options and EFS, such as providing winter forage for wild birds, maintaining winter stubble, creating arable fields and creating pollinator fields.’ She added: “We believe it is vital that farmers are financially compensated for implementing these conservation measures.”

If your farm is already participating in an organic farming scheme and you would like to take part in a group project, or if you are interested in entering your farm in the future and would like more information, please contact Anne Guichard, RSPB NI, at [email protected] or 07935014968. RSPB NI launches bespoke project to halt the decline of iconic bird species on the Causeway Coast

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