Wildife Buzzing about the Birds and Bees Project

Birds & Bees Project Wildflower field
Katharine Johnston

Six Farm Conservation Advisers, members of the Scottish Farming and Wildlife Advisers Group (ScotFWAG), have worked with over 60 Scottish farmers to create habitat benefiting many species of birds and bees.  The farmers involved in the project stretch from Shetland and Orkney to The Borders.

The Birds and Bees Project is funded by the Biodiversity Challenge Fund, run by NatureScot (formally Scottish Natural Heritage).  The funding was awarded earlier this year and the group have managed to progress the project, despite the problems with COVID, in some cases having to have video advisory visits with farmers, rather than face to face meetings.

In total 30 hectares of species-rich grassland will have been sown, some incorporating an element of cereal to provide an increased interest for small farmland birds over the first winter and some being used to enhance already existing areas of grassland.

As well as providing the wildflower seed for creating these areas of species-rich grassland, the Project also provided 56 Barn Owl boxes, almost 480 Tree Sparrow boxes, 60 invertebrate boxes and 60 bird feeders and bags of wildbird seed.

The Birds and Bees Project provided the species-rich grassland seed, which is highly specialist, grown in Scotland by Scotia Seeds and much more expensive than normal grass seed.  The nestboxes were provided to enhance the areas around the sites, hopefully encouraging the wildlife attracted to them to stay and breed in the area.

The species-rich grassland sites will create long term sources of pollen and nectar for a wide variety of pollinating insects.  The increase in pollinators will help insect eating birds and predatory insects and the flower seeds will feed seed eating bird species, such as Linnet and Yellowhammer.   The sites will become a habitat used by voles and other small rodents and so draw in larger predatory birds such as Barn Owl and Kestrel, in all the whole food web will benefit from the habitat creation.

The group are now in the process of writing up a few case studies and collating the information they have gathered from each site. 

Links to this information will be made available early in the new year on both the ScotFWAG Facebook page and website www.ScotFWAG.co.uk if you would like to know more about the project.  These case studies will look at the different ways the habitat was created, what plants established at the sites and what insects were seen using the plots in the first year.

Details of the sites created are being shared with Buglife’s B-lines Project https://www.buglife.org.uk/our-work/b-lines/ and the Pollinator Monitoring and Research Partnership (PMRP) FIT Count survey https://www.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/projects/pollinator-monitoring, which is looking at how pollinator populations are changing across Great Britain.

The Farm Conservation Advisers working on the project are:

Alison McKnight (Agroecosystems Ltd.)                                

Carol Littlewood (Littlewood Land Care)

Maggie Maggie (Borders Woodland Services)                      

Sandra Stewart (Farming and Conservation)

Sue White                                                                               

Tamsin Morris (Walking The Talk)