Wildlife Estates Scotland hosts Interreg PARTRIDGE meeting

Wildlife Estates Scotland hosts Interreg PARTRIDGE meeting

The fifth partner meeting of the North Sea Region PARTRIDGE project was held last week in Scotland, with the base of operations at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, followed by a trip to Wildlife Estates member, Whitburgh Farms in Midlothian, to see first-hand the progress at this PARTRIDGE demonstration site.

This project aims to show how the introduction of quality conservation habitats to 10 demonstrations sites, two each in Scotland, England, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium, can increase the numbers of a key indicator species, the Grey Partridge together with other farmland wildlife of conservation concern. Each site is striving to convert 7% of the arable area into such habitat: the level thought necessary to support stable or increasing populations into the future, along with the provision of feeders in winter and legal predation management where acceptable.

It was great to see that much progress has been made in the first 18-months or so of the project across all partners: many of the continental demonstration sites have already exceeded their habitat targets, feeders have been introduced on all sites, the first Beetle Banks have been introduced in the Netherlands and Belgium, and agreements have been made with various other land managers to improve the way they alter the landscape in quite significant ways for the benefit of farmland wildlife.

One of the major innovations being tried across all demonstration projects is a new PARTRIDGE cover crop consisting of many different plant species, designed to provide year-round resources – insects for young birds, cover from predators and winter food. This mix varies slightly from country-to-country to suit local conditions, and each country faces its own challenges in producing successful plots. For example, in Scotland there seems to be a much heavier weed burden that needs to be dealt with so the crop is not choked out.

Mr Alastair Salvesen, the owner at Whitburgh, and his team, have been working for five years to try to demonstrate to key policy makers in Scotland how best to manage lowland farms for the benefit of grey partridge and other wildlife.

Whitburgh are making significant progress as grey partridge numbers have increased to the point where a small, sustainable shoot was held in 2017. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, in 2018 Whitburgh Farms was awarded the Grey Partridge Trophy which is recognises the estate, farm or shoot that has done the most for the species and to encourage more farmers and landowners to actively conserve and count grey partridges.

The ultimate aim of PARTRIDGE is to influence future agri-environment schemes and Wildlife Estates is proud to be a part of this cross-sectional project which unites stakeholders from such diverse backgrounds.

For more information about the project or to learn about some of the partridge promoting measures please visit: http://www.northsearegion.eu/partridge/ or get in touch with Paul Stephens of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust: pstephens@gwct.org.uk