‘How I manage my land for healthy bird populations’
by Noel Kiernan
Wildlife exists on my farm in water, hedgerows and forestry, and grazed areas especially the callows. Below are my top tips how to manage this to help bird populations.
- Hedges should not be cut low, allowed to produce fruit and should have opportunities for nesting birds and insects. Fieldfare and redwing especially will benefit from this.
- The ponds– while they can be used for drinking, they mainly benefit amphibians along with water dwelling insects i.e. dragonflies, and the pond flora.
- The more fertile pastures should not be topped until plants are gone to seed i.e. nettles and thistles. Some fields should be left untopped in rotation.
- The callows benefit from being grazed heavily by Connemara ponies, the Lough Ree goats also graze here. It’s important that woody plants should not thrive here such as willow, birch, gorse, and perennial plants like meadowsweet. The ponies and the goats will control these plants, topping may be helpful also and they can be mowed for meadow in dry years. This management will benefit ground nesting birds like skylark, meadow pipit, cuckoo, snipe, warblers species, and if you’re lucky you may get lapwing and curlew to nest there too. Cattle can be grazed in July after the birds have hatched. This should be done in rotation with the ponies. This management also benefits plants like orchids and butterfly species (marsh fritillary).
- The management of lakes and rivers on the farm is less proactive because it often depends on outside influences upstream but I have tried to control the shooting of winter visiting birds like widgeon, teal, mallred, shoveler, and whooper swan.
- The forests are mixed, mainly native species, and are especially good for summer visiting birds, who take opportunity of the variety of food and nest sites.
About Noel Kiernan
Noel Kiernan farms 250 acres of mixed land – there is forestry, marsh, bogland, pasture and hay meadows. He is passionate about conservation in all forms – from native flora and fauna, to native Irish livestock breeds. He farms and breeds from Roscommon sheep and Bo Riacht cattle – playing a crucial role in ensuring the vitality of these old Irish breeds. The animals are a crucial element of Noels farming system as they graze the pasture and produce manure which fertilizes the soil – “Grazing is very important for certain rare species, such as curlew, corncrake, lapwing, skylark and other ground nesting birds, as well as flora like orchids. All those species have followed us as farmers through the ages and they have benefited from our farming activity. Now, the lack of that type of traditional farming activity means that many of those species will be in trouble because they won’t have suitable habitats.” Noel is a forester as well as a farmer and he is passionate about combining forestry and farming. There is 100 acres of native broadleaf forestry on the land and Noel runs a continuous forest cover system. The farm, also referred to as “Noel’s Ark”, holds an impressive array of habitats and wildlife, including but not limited to amphibians, lizards, pine martens, kingfishers, woodcocks, blackcaps, skylarks, marsh fritillary butterflies and various bee species. For years, Noel has dedicated his time and his land to farming in ways that protect and enhance biodiversity – “my farm is open to whatever birds want to come in.” More information and a film on Noel’s farm here. Ambassador since 2021