Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Cotswold Grey Partridge Group - a winning team!

The Cotswold Grey Partridge group turned out in force!

Richard Benyon, John Phillips and Mark Tufnell

The winning team - Stephen and John back on home soil 
 The Cotswold Grey Partridge group (there are about a dozen groups run by the GWCT across the country including Scotland) held its summer meeting the other evening and around 70 people turned up, reaffirming just how highly regarded the little grey bird is held amongst country folk.

The outdoor meeting was held on the estate of last year’s winner of the coveted trophy - Richard Benyon MP. The trophy (Sponsored by the Calmsden estate, owned by the chairman of the group – Mark Tufnell) is given out annually to the person who is considered to have done the most to help the Grey partridge in the area during the year.

The group was shown around by Richard and Grey partridge keeper David Wiggins (One of the best!). Not only did we see a range of top quality habitats targeted at partridge, but also Lapwing plots with plenty of young Lapwings present – not a surprise really as David is strong on controlling Fox and Crow numbers.

 In fact, alongside the Grey partridge, the estate now has every target farmland bird species present except the Corn Bunting. Tree sparrow, Yellow Wagtail, Skylark, Lapwing, Reed Bunting and perhaps most surprising of all – the Turtle Dove, a species in free-fall decline, are all found on the estate. A classic demonstration that when you put the correct management in place for Grey Partridge – all the other farmland birds respond too. 
This year’s winner is John Phillips from Far Hill Farm near Fairford in Gloucestershire, who is a tenant of the Ernest Cook Trust. John, with the help of keeper Stephen Jones, has once again put everything in place for Grey partridge and all other farmland birds.

Alongside the important role that Stephen plays in providing targeted predator control during the breeding period, John has provided tussocky grass areas for nesting, planted wonderful wild flower margins around many of his fields which are alive with insect life – so important for the chicks to feed on – grows wild bird seed mixes to provide food for birds over-winter and has even planted up a couple of hectares with a mix to attract Corn Buntings to nest in. Stephen also scatters grain about on the tracks and places hoppers around the farm, filled with food for birds to feed on when natural supplies start to dwindle at the end of the year. In all, John has put a staggering 17% of his farm into habitats for wildlife – I think that says it all – an incredibly worthy winner of this year’s trophy!!

Back on Richard's estate meanwhile, the evening event finished off back in the barn, where we all gathered to "talk partridge", drink a beer or two and feast on mouth-wateringly delicious Hereford beef burgers, so locally produced that we could see the pure bred herd from the barn! Now that’s what I call a successful evening event!!!
What it is all about - creating great habitats - one of John's flower margins !

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