Feed the birds... and qualify for a Defra grant

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FARMERS will be paid to feed birds in winter, it has been revealed.

Defra is planning to announce that winter feeding of farmland birds will become a qualifying activity, from January 2013, for Entry Level Stewardship, the scheme which gives farmers a bit of compensation for behaving in an environmentally friendly way.

Support will require the spreading on fields of a prescribed quantity of a prescribed mix of seeds from January to mid-April – known to ornithologists as ‘the hungry gap’.

Farming minister James Paice is expected to announce the details at the Cereals Event, a big arable farmers’ gathering scheduled for mid-June at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire.

But the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust was so thrilled at the news that it jumped the gun and put it out last week.

It said: “Much of the evidence behind this new decision has come from two decades of research carried out on the Trust’s project farm in Leicestershire, where farmland bird numbers were doubled in years when additional grain seeds were provided through feed hoppers compared to years without.

“Defra’s decision will be welcomed by farmers who plant wildlife strips for birds but know that this source of food runs out late in the winter.”