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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 May 2005, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Appeal to help save farmland bird
The RSPB is appealing for help in reversing the declining numbers of a farmland bird.

Skylarks are one of the UK's best-known farmland birds, but over the last 30 years the population has been steadily dropping in the North West.

It is hoped that farmers can help to halt the decline by adopting skylark plots - small areas of undrilled land within a winter-sown crop.

The plots make ideal foraging areas for the birds, says the RSPB.

The number of skylarks dropped by nearly 25% in the North West between 1994 and 2004.

Winter crops

Andrew Gouldstone, RSPB conservation manager for the region, said: "A countryside without the beautiful song of the skylark would be a much poorer place.

"Skylark plots are a really simple and yet effective way in which farmers can deliver enormous benefits for these birds within fields of winter cereal.

"To save the skylark, farmers only need to turn off their seed drills for a count of up to two seconds when sowing winter cereals."

Participation in the scheme can be used to score points as part of an application for the new Defra Entry Level scheme.

Skylarks traditionally forage and nest in and around spring-sown cereals, but by adopting the new plots, it is hoped that farmers can make winter-sown crops just as attractive to the birds.

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