Fife pupils help threatened birds in farmland project

Pupils from Pittenweem Primary who took part in the project.
Pupils from Pittenweem Primary who took part in the project.

Pupils from a number of Fife primary schools took part in a very special event last week to help one of Scotland’s most threatened birds, the corn bunting.

Over 150 children from Elie, Crail and Pittenweem Primary Schools helped create giant bird tables by sowing a wild bird seed mix at designated Fife Council sites local to the schools, which will provide a vital food source for corn buntings and other farmland birds over the winter.

Youngsters were sowing  a wild bird seed mix as part of the scheme.

Youngsters were sowing a wild bird seed mix as part of the scheme.

The seed mix also contains wildflowers including clover and linseed which will encourage pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Elaine Paterson, headteacher at Pittenweem Primary School, said: “The children enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the corn buntings and to play their part in helping to increase their numbers by sowing a wild patch to provide a suitable habitat for them. They particularly enjoyed stomping the seeds into the ground!”

Corn buntings have suffered dramatic declines in East Scotland over the past few decades with numbers falling by 83 per cent between 1989 and 2007, marking them as one of Scotland’s fastest declining birds. A Corn Bunting Recovery Project was launched in Fife and thanks to the actions of farmers and estates involved; the fortunes of this special bird have changed.

Last year, survey work identified the highest increase in corn bunting numbers in Fife in any single year since monitoring began: between 2015 and 2016, the number of territories increased by 18 per cent, from 62 to 73 on participating farms. This is largely due to providing a winter food source for the birds as well as safe nesting spaces and summer insect food for the chicks.

Johanna Willi, Biodiversity officer for Fife Council, said: “We are very fortunate to have a population of the threatened corn bunting right here on our doorstep in Fife, and it was so exciting to be able to team up with primary school children to take action to help protect this charming farmland bird.”

She added: “Big thanks to Fife Council’s park operations team who got the ground prepared for sowing. We are delighted to be working with RSPB Scotland.”

Yvonne Stephan is a conservation advisor for RSPB Scotland and helps run the Corn Bunting Recovery Project. She said: “It’s fantastic to see all the excitement about corn buntings and how the entire region pulls together to save this little bird. The children did a fantastic job in sowing the seeds and it’s heart warming to see how many people are joining forces.”