P Needham & Son - Conservation

Gerald Needham’s 263 hectare unit, has been dedicated to the encouragement of wildlife and in particular the grey partridge, for many years. Located just south of Lincoln, ten per cent of the farmed area has been allocated to a range of Higher Level Stewardship features within an agreement that began in 2007.

Coleby

Mr Needham’s passion for grey partridges has been embraced by his local Kings advisor Meehal Grint. Having worked together for several years, Meehal has been instrumental in providing dedicated advice on selecting the right mixtures and their ongoing management across a range of options, including nectar flower, floristically enhanced margins, wild bird seed mixtures and buffer strips.

An extensive network of wild bird seed mixtures has been created as a result of Mr Needham’s hard work, with at least half of the eight hectares planted retained for a second year. Meehal’s support has enabled the mixtures to be developed against an agreed agronomy plan, ensuring the crops get off to the best possible start. Having such a system provides a network of nesting and brood rearing cover around the farm and has benefitted many species, including the grey partridge. Mr Needham comments “My main aim has and continues to be to show that profitable farming, country sports and conservation can go hand in hand. Our small farmland birds have increased in the region of five fold, with lapwing and skylark increases particularly notable.”

All this hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed. In 2011, the project was awarded the coveted Jas Martin Lincolnshire Grey Partridge Award. This was followed by a joint Bronze recognition in the 2014 Purdey Awards, for which the judging panel described the farm as “a haven where grey partridges are flourishing”.

A peak of thirty pairs of grey partridges was recorded in the 2012 spring count. The dreadful summer of that year unfortunately caused a decline in numbers, but they are on the increase again; by the spring of 2014, twenty pairs were counted.

If this summer is kind, Mr Needham’s ongoing efforts should be rewarded with the ultimate prize: a healthy and growing population of one of the finest farmland health indicators there are – the wild grey partridge.

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