Event at Falnash
Twenty five farmers, foresters and land managers turned out to the latest Working for Waders event at Falnash farm near Hawick on Wednesday, braving an icy cold wind to take part in a conversation about curlews and hill farming.
Falnash farm belongs to Sandy and April Fleming, who introduced the visitors to their business and the challenges they face in managing almost three thousand acres of remote hill country in Upper Teviotdale. Curlews have been in steep decline at Falnash over the last decade, and conversation began to unpick the drivers behind habitat loss and a drop in wader productivity.
Professor Davy McCracken was on hand to provide his experiences from the SRUC’s demonstration farm near Crianlarich, and this provided food for thought as the conversation gathered pace. Many farmers brought their own experiences to the discussion, sharing their concerns about the decline of wading birds and swapping stories of wader scrapes, hill grazing and the importance of predator control. It’s clear that farmers have a wealth of expertise when it comes to farmland conservation, but it’s often a juggling act to balance sustainable land management with the pressures of running a farm business in a marginal area.
Out on the hill, the conversation moved from rush control and pasture improvement to the threat posed to ground-nesting birds by badgers and generalist predators. Forest expansion was identified as an important threat to the future of wader habitats, and foresters were on hand to share their ideas on integrating commercial planting with wader conservation. This will be a tough nut to crack, but Andy Tharme of Borders Council was on hand to discuss strategic planning for forest expansion in the south east of Scotland, particularly in how land uses can be balanced and conflict managed.
This was the second Working for Waders event aimed specifically at farmers in the Scottish Borders, and we were encouraged yet again by the turnout and level of enthusiasm for wader conservation in the farming community. Now we have to build on this work and ensure that farmers continue to lead the way for this part of the Working for Waders initiative.