Dorset is a working landscape that has been shaped by human activity for thousands of years. Much of Dorset’s countryside is used for growing crops, such as wheat and barley. Some plants and animals are well suited to the conditions that arable farming provides.
Many plants like to grow on soil that is regularly disturbed and can therefore thrive on regularly ploughed farmland. These include poppies, corn cockles and the bright red pheasant’s eye. Brown hares are an enigmatic farmland animal, and birds like tree sparrows, yellowhammers, skylarks and corn buntings can also live happily in this environment.
Dorset Farmland Today
In the last 50 years, farming has become increasingly intensive and specialised. Increased use of pesticides and an increase in autumn crop sowing have affected many of the plants and animals mentioned above. These species are often overlooked, but are now among our rarest. For example, the tree sparrow has declined by 95%. Many farmers are helping wildlife by leaving uncultivated wildlife strips at the edges of fields and providing patches of wildlife seed plants for birds.
Seeing Farmland Wildlife
Walking in the Dorset AONB countryside, using the extensive public rights of way network, offers many opportunities to see farmland wildlife. Look out for ‘mad March hares’ and listen out for the beautiful song of the skylark.
There are a number of country walks (permissive access) agreed through Defra’s Environmental Stewardship Scheme click here.
Threats to Farmland Wildlife
- Increased use of pesticides
- Increased autumn crop sowing makes conditions less suitable for breeding birds in spring
- More intensive land-use can prevent breeding success
How to help farmland wildlife
- Sign up for the RSPB’s Volunteer & Farmer Alliance programme
- Help us to find out where it is! Many surveys are under way to locate remaining populations of brown hares, rare farmland birds and arable plants. For further information, contact Dorset Wildlife Trust, RSPB or Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.