Sunday 7 October 2007

Looking out for partridges

On Friday I attended the National Partridge Conference in Cambridge, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (the new name for the Game Conservancy).

The morning session was a series of lectures, where we heard from the scientists who have been researching into our native grey partridges for the past 30 years.

English partridges were once widespread across the British countryside, but have suffered a decline of 86% over the last 30 years. They're now the subject of a government Biodiversity Action Plan, with the GWCT as 'lead partner'.

In the afternoon we were taken to the GWCT's flagship partridge recovery project at Royston in Herts - where they have proved that the partridge's decline can be reversed. A combination of habitat management and predator control has seen partridge numbers increase from 20 pairs to 184 pairs in just four years.

To prove the point, GWCT keeper Malcolm Brockless and his team of beaters positioned the delegates at pegs like a partridge shoot, and drove several large coveys over the line. Several hares came though the line too, proving that managing land for partridges is good for other wildlife too.

I couldn't help feeling sorry for Malcolm when a fox burst through the line, with all the GWCT top brass watching. I bet he'll be doubling his efforts to catch that particular charlie!

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