Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) Handbook 2013 (NE349)
EF8 Skylark plots 5 points per plot

Area constraints apply to this option.

Figure 7 – Creating low, open vegetation provides access to foraging and nesting habitats

The number of breeding skylarks has halved since the mid-1970s, due largely to the switch from spring to autumn sowing of cereals and the intensification of grassland management. Arable fields support more breeding skylarks than any other habitat. Large, open fields are preferred, where the birds nest on the ground in vegetation less than 50 cm high, so winter cereals soon become unsuitable for breeding. Up to three nesting attempts are made in a long breeding season that extends from April to August.

This option will provide suitable habitat for skylarks in winter cereal crops throughout the breeding season.

This is a 'rotational option'. This means that the plots can move around the farm within the normal arable rotation, but the same total number of plots must be maintained each year.

For this option, you must comply with the following:

  • Select a field that is more than 5 ha in area, has an open aspect and will be drilled with winter cereals. A good guide is the presence of skylarks singing over the field in previous years.
  • Avoid fields bounded by tree lines or adjacent to woods, unless the field is greater than 10 ha.
  • Create the plots either by turning off the drill during sowing to leave an unsown plot, or by sowing the crop as normal and spraying out the plots by 31 December with an appropriate herbicide.
  • The plots should be at least 3 m wide and have a minimum area of 16 m2 (eg 3 m x 6 m or 4 m x 4 m).
  • Locate the plots away from tramlines (a middle spot between two sets of tramlines is best) and field boundaries/margins (at least 50 m into the field), to minimise nest predation.
  • Space skylark plots across the field at a minimum density of two plots per ha.
  • After drilling, there is no requirement to manage plots differently to the remainder of the field (they can be oversprayed and can be fertilised).
  • You are not required to keep the plots weed-free.
  • There must be no mechanical weeding of plots.
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