A FATHER and son farming team from County Durham who have supported the survival of a declining farmland bird have won an award for their efforts.
Peter and Phil Dowson, who farm about 130 hectares at Eppleby, near Darlington, have helped wild grey partridges to thrive on their land.
Their winter crops have provided cover for the partridges which are seen as easy prey for other animals and they have put out extra food for the birds.
Now, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has awarded them the 2012 Durham and Northern Dales Grey Partridge Group trophy, sponsored by GSC Grays.
Figures show wild grey partridges have had their worst breeding season since the trust was founded in 1933.
The decline has been attributed to the wettest summer for a century, and the trust has called for a concerted effort by farmers to help the much-loved bird recover. Henrietta Appleton, an adviser from the GWCT and one of the judges, said: “It is always encouraging to visit farms such as Peter and Phil’s where there is genuine passion to continue seeing wild grey partridges on the farm.”
The Dowsons winter oil seed rape, potatoes and over-winter stubbles have provided important winter escape cover after harvest and into winter. In addition to creating suitable habitat across the farm, Peter and Phil provide additional food for the partridges through supplementary feeding as well as controlling key predators during the nesting and brood-rearing season.
Ms Appleton said: “Whilst large scale conservation schemes tend to grab the headlines, the work of farmers like Peter and Phil are important in conserving the declining populations over wide areas of rural England. As the Dowsons prove, every little bit helps especially in difficult years such as this year.”