Litlington farmer joins initiative to help declining owl population

Farmer Ralph Parker has enlisted in The Jordans Farm Partnership.

Farmer Ralph Parker has enlisted in The Jordans Farm Partnership. - Credit: Archant

A Litlington farmer has joined an initiative to help the local barn owl population, which has dropped 35 per cent according to the latest figures from ornithologists.

Ralph Parker enlisted in The Jordans Farm Partnership – by Jordans Cereals in Bedfordshire – which is designed to promote sustainable farming with a commitment to give more than 10 per cent of Jordans farmland to British wildlife.

Mr Parker has been farming in Litlington for 20 years at Highfield Farm – carrying on what his family started in the 1960s – and grows cereals for Jordans.

He said: “The most rewarding part of farming here is to see the results of our work from a commercial and conservation aspect. Every year is different!”

Data from the British Trust for Ornithology’s Breeding Bird Survey states that there has been an estimated 35 per cent decline in the barn owl population between 2015 and 2016.

This is something Mr Parker is keen to tackle – with a dedicated wildflower meadow where barn owls can be seen hunting in the late evening, as well as an annually cultivated plot that is monitored for breeding lapwings.

And it’s not just animals that Mr Parker is working to support – some of the rarer flower species, such as Rough Poppy and Dwarf Spurge are also thriving in the hedgerows at the farm in Royston Road, between the village and the A505.

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He said the attraction of bees, butterflies and other insects by these efforts to cultivate the flora also has a positive knock-on effect.

“Many of these insects are important to farmers as they help to control pests, pollinate crops and build soil fertility, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilisers,” he said.

“I believe it is vital to conserve the local wildlife for future generations to enjoy.”

Sian Williams – the Beds, Cambs and Northamptonshire conservation officer for the Wildlife Trust, said: “The Wildlife Trust has worked together with Mr Parker to produce a farm plan which makes the most of the opportunities for the land to provide habitat for the species we know are important to protect in this area of Cambridgeshire.

“A range of farmland bird species are thriving on the farm and the plan helps to make sure they will continue to have year-round food, shelter and nesting habitat.”

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