Film Montagu’s Harrier shows win-win for agriculture and biodiversity
The pilot project “Fly along with the Montagu’s Harrier” launches an awareness raising film about the Montagu’s Harrier and the efforts made by several farmers.
The film clearly shows the relevance of area-based measures and thus increases support for this beautiful European protected species. This way, non-profit organisation Regionaal Landschap Zuid-Hageland wants to engage more farmers to take species protection measures in their fields and to get the local residents and municipal authorities interested in the Montagu’s Harrier as an ‘umbrella species’ for our endangered arable birds.
(more info underneath the video)
At the end of 2015, Flemish minister Joke Schauvliege approved the species protection plan (SPP) for the Montagu’s Harrier. This document constitutes the foundation for field actions.
Since the beginning of 2017, six different partners have been working together on ‘Plan Kiekendief’ (Plan Montagu’s Harrier) to create a new habitat for this species in the open field areas in the Flemish loam region. Commissioned by the Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB), Regionaal Landschap Zuid-Hageland is working together with Regionaal Landschap Haspengouw en Voeren, Vlaamse Landmaatschappij (VLM), Working Group Grauwe Kiekendief (Montagu’s Harrier) and Working Group Grauwe Gors (Corn Bunting) on food supply and nest protection. This way this partnership creates new opportunities for this special bird.
Thanks to the subsidies from LIFE BNIP for innovative projects, Regionaal Landschap Zuid-Hageland receives a boost in the realisation of the pilot project ‘Vlieg mee met de Grauwe Kiekendief’. Thanks to this funding, the awareness raising film was developed.
How is this translated into practice?
In order to achieve the objectives of the species protection programme, management agreements are drawn up with farmers on a voluntary basis and opportunities are sought locally for structural ecological elements in the landscape. Once the Harrier decides to breed, nest protection is started, for example by placing a protection cage.
Read more about the objectives and implementation on the website of ‘Plan Kiekendief’.
Win-win for agriculture and biodiversity
A win-win situation is created for both biodiversity and agriculture.
VLM offers farmers two new management packages for this project: the bird or hunting-field with alternating strips of alfalfa and herbs, and summer or winter cereals in crop rotation. The model of the bird field is aligned with the hunting behaviour of the harrier. The harrier mainly scours field edges in search of mice and small field birds. Crop rotation responds to a supply of cover and food for many field birds in the form of insects and grain that remains on the field in winter time.
From an agricultural perspective, the bird field is also interesting because alfalfa is harvested in a regular way and can be processed into animal feed. It is also a crop that hardly needs any fertilisation, works as a soil improver and has a high drought resistance.
Ecologically speaking, the measures taken for the harrier create opportunities for other arable birds. In practice, this is a so-called ‘umbrella species’ for many other species. It is remarkable and heartwarming that after two years not only more than 50 ha of management agreements for harrier were concluded with farmers, but also that species such as short-eared owl and Hen harrier made breeding attempts in these areas. Also, many species opted for the areas where measures have been taken as a resting point in migration and the bird fields) also offer great added value in winter, for example for mouse eaters such as the Great egret.