Let’s leave a share for our meadow birds
By Sylviane Gilmont, Wed, 27/05/2015 – 13:04
The decline of numerous farmland bird species is alarming in Belgium, as it is across the rest of Europe. Even well known and previously abundant species like the Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer have been vanishing from fields and meadows. This is happening partly because conventional farming practices have transformed natural landscapes across the continent, but also because barren fields tend to be left behind in winter, leaving birds so little to eat they starve. This has been the inspiration for Natagora’s Farine Mélodieuse project, where a farmer is helping birds struggling to survive the long cold winter months by leaving a share of his wheat harvest on the field for birds.
The name Farine Mélodieuse (Melodious Flour), comes from the Linotte Mélodieuse (Common Linnet), a familiar meadowland species. Under this project, Natagora has been working closely with one of Walloon’s organic farmers whose field is in Hesbaye, a part of Wallonia where agriculture is quite intensive and wild birds rare. This past year, the farmer left 10% of his wheat field unharvested, and not surprising[ly], birds started coming back. Volunteers from AVES and Natagora were seeing Yellowhammers, European Greenfinches, and Commons Linnets coming to his field repeatedly to feed on or under the wheat spikes that were still standing on the ground. This shows that so little can help reverse the decline in meadowland birds.
And the farmer didn’t just do it for the birds. He took 90% of the wheat that he harvested and sold it as organic “Farine Mélodieuse”. He milled the wheat grain in a traditional way on a big stone wheel that rotates slowly and turns whole grain into flour. It’s an old method that preserves the oil-rich wheatgerm and bran, and so a much healthier choice than mass produced flour which is stripped of its nutritional qualities. People are more conscious about their choices today, but not only bought this flour as a healthy choice, but also to help finance the project and benefit meadowland birds.
Farine Mélodieuse is good for nature, people and birds. Natagora is expanding the experiment in the coming year and is spreading the word in hopes that it will be reproduced in other European farmlands to help our meadow birds come back.
The BirdLife-led MSB project has developed a set of guidelines for bird-sensitive agriculture development, in an effort to address threats caused by unsustainable agriculture practices and to help the agriculture sector with bird conservation: here.