Readiness for spring

As the season begins to change, it doesn’t take keen observation skills to notice the activities in the hedgerows and field margins as the farmland birds, mammals and invertebrates start to get active. This is when farming activities really need to take into account the habitat needs of the natural world and the team from Cambridgeshire-based seed and plant suppliers and wildlife habitat specialists Oakbank has some salient advice for anyone entered into Stewardship schemes.

Among the actions needed to be taken this month are preparation of nesting plots for lapwing and stone curlew (Mid-tier CS) and the preparation of rough, cultivated land for ground nesting birds (ELS). It is also the time of year to put the cutters away as all hedge and ditch bank cutting should now have ceased.

Here is a comprehensive list of actions for March.

ELS

As we enter March all hedge cutting and ditch bank cutting activities have to cease. Six metre grass buffer strips can still be cut but only if they contain some flowers. This is also the time that wild bird seed mixes (EF2) can be flailed and the ground cultivated.

Looking at what can be done in the next month: cereal headlands, broad leaf weed control with amidosulfron can be carried out on unfertilised headlands (EF2) until 31 March, while unharvested cereal headlands (EF10) can be cut and returned to the rotation. Low input grassland can be cut, harrowed or rolled up until 31 March.

Preparing rough cultivated areas for ground nesting birds should take place between now and 20 March. Supplementary feeding should continue until 31 March.

Mid-tier CS

Nectar flower mixes (AB1) must be cut down before 30 March (and ideally cuttings removed or shredded) and any grazing livestock must be removed by 15 March. In flower rich margins and plots (AB8) any grasses threatening to smother flowers can be cut back before April.

 If you have nesting lapwings and stone curlew, then the nesting plots must be cultivated by 20 March. And supplementary feeding for farmland birds (AB12) must continue to 30 April.

In addition, all farmers should now be checking their perennial crops to assess what input or management may be needed.

For more information on the services offered by Oakbank, visit the website or call 01480 890 686