2014 proves to be the best year for wild grey partridge in Ireland

The  grey partridge in Ireland has reached an historic high of just over 1,000 birds. This figure is the estimated population of Boora, Co Offaly, where the Trust supports the work done on behalf of the species by the National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Although chick survival was lower than we would have hoped for, 2014 has proved to be a good year for the Trusts re-introduction project based on farmland in North County Dublin. This project is funded by Fingal County Council & EU Leader. We are grateful to local branches of Bird Watch Ireland & Dublin Regional Council – and all of the other clubs for their contributions and support.

Radio Tracking Study of Lapwing Chicks Begins

The Trust has just started a radio tracking study to determine the factors that influence the survival of lapwing chicks to fledgling. Through this research we will explore the relative importance of starvation and predation as causes of chick mortality among the population of breeding lapwing in Boora.

Wild partridge management has delivered a fantastic dividend for biodiversity, particularly for breeding lapwings, which are another red-data species of conservation concern. Quite un-expectedly breeding lapwings have responded spectacularly to wild partridge management. The study will be on-going until a statistically robust number of broods can be radio-tracked.

The Trust is grateful for the support of Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park Dr David Butler of Perdix Wildife Supplies & the National Parks & Wildlife Service Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Grey Partridge Hatching begins

A number of sightings of grey partridges with their chicks have been spotted in Boora. Broods ranging in number from 14 upwards: the pairs were seen feeding with their chicks in brood-rearing habitats created and managed by the NPWS.

Our fingers are now crossed for good weather and plenty of insects.

Team players strike a conservation success for grey partridge

The Cranborne Estate in Dorset is the latest recipient of a prestigious conservation trophy awarded in recognition of the considerable efforts being made to boost one of our most threatened farmland birds, the wild grey partridge.

The trophy, which was presented to Lord Cranborne by Mike Swan, an advisor with the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is awarded each year by the Trust to the farm or estate in the Wessex region that has maximised conservation efforts for grey partridges as well as other declining farmland bird species.

Mike Swan, said, “We were delighted to present the trophy to Lord Cranborne at our autumn Wessex Grey Partridge Group meeting. The combined energy and enthusiasm of the Cranborne Estate team has made the estate a worthy winner of the grey partridge trophy.”

One of the aims of the Wessex Partridge Group, which attracts support from farmers and landowners across Wessex, is to share knowledge, experience and glean current advice on grey partridge conservation in an effort to boost the recovery of this once familiar farmland bird.

Over the past 40 years grey partridges have declined by nearly 86 per cent and the GWCT has been developing a raft of measures to kick-start a recovery programme across the country. Working closely with farmers and landowners has been an important factor in this recovery effort.

Mike Swan explains the importance of the latest meeting, “Visiting the Cranborne Estate was extremely instructive for all those attending the Wessex meeting. The fantastic teamwork between the owner, farm manager, gamekeepers and estate manager, has ensured that a programme of measures have been implemented around the estate to support grey partridges through their life-cycle. These include improved hedgerow management, grass margins, beetle banks and insect rich brood strips that provide food for foraging chicks. In addition, a generous winter and spring feeding programme is in place together with targeted predator control.”

Mike Swan explains, “As a result of these actions, grey partridges have increased from just a few pairs to a total of 34 pairs in 2012. However, when a population is so vulnerable, unforeseen events such as the appalling wet weather conditions last year can be a huge set-back in a recovery programme. As a consequence very few chicks survived last summer. But the outlook is much brighter following our good summer this year as more grey partridges were in evidence this autumn. The signs look excellent for continued population growth in the future. Another positive aspect of this conservation work is that other declining species like corn bunting, skylark and turtle dove are benefitting too.”

With winter approaching a key message from the day was that providing sources of over-winter cover and food across the farm is vital to help conserve important bird species through the leanest months of winter. Putting out feed hoppers is likely to ensure that more birds survive the winter and breed successfully next summer. As an added incentive to do this farmers and landowners are now being paid to provide additional grain during the ‘hungry gap’ (January to late April) through government funded agri-environment schemes.

More information on how to conserve wild grey partridges can be obtained from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s website at : www.gwct.org.uk/greypartridge.


Recovery course for wild grey partridges

Press Release:

It’s poignant that not so very long ago, the wild grey partridge was a very common bird that flourished on arable farmland across the country. However, in the past 40 years its numbers have plummeted by more than 80 per cent and leading research charity the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), based in Fordingbridge, Hampshire reports that they have become locally extinct in many areas.

The GWCT continues to research and develop solutions to kick-start recovery. The latest development is an inspiring one-day training course, being held at the Trust’s headquarters in Fordingbridge, Hampshire on 7th November.

The training is based on a three-year research study initiated by the Trust, which investigated the most effective methods of re-establishing a partridge population through releasing and culminated in comprehensive guidelines for practioners.

Dr Francis Buner, the GWCT scientist who led the research project and is part of the training team, said, “Grey partridges suffered a catastrophic breeding season last year because of the appallingly wet summer. As a consequence, the need to re-establish new populations is crucial if we are to save this bird, particularly as there are now huge tracts of our countryside that no longer holds grey partridges. We hope that our comprehensive guidelines and this training will show the art of the possible.”


Re-establishing a wild population where they are no longer present is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Dr Buner continues, “Once the right habitats have been GWCT-Recovery_course_for_wild_grey_partridges-101013.jpg_Thumbnail0created and feeding and predator control are being maintained, we feel confident that many people will be able to have wild partridges on their land again. This would be a fantastic achievement for future generations.”

The training day involves a combination of presentations and practical sessions. This in-depth course is designed to help clarify and guide people through some of the pitfalls and will offer lots of tips and encouragement to help ensure a positive and successful outcome.

In any re-introduction project, attention to detail is paramount and the day will be run by both Roger Draycott and Francis Buner from the Trust as well as Dr David Butler, a gamebird biologist from Perdix Wildlife, who specialise in rearing grey partridges for re-introduction programmes.

Dr Roger Draycott said, “This course is relevant to everyone interested in grey partridge conservation, from farmers or conservation groups looking to re-establish a small but viable resident population on their land to game managers whose ultimate goal is to achieve a sustainable wild grey partridge shoot.”

The one-day course on the 7th November costs £66 per person including lunch and can be booked by contacting Lynda Ferguson on 01425 651013 or email: lferguson@gwct.org.uk. Alternatively book online: www.gwct.org.uk/courses.

A gain for greys in Yorkshire

Issue date: Thursday 2 October 2013
Press Release

A gain for greys in Yorkshire
Leading research charity, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is delighted to announce the winner of its prestigious Yorkshire conservation trophy dedicated to one of the UK’s most iconic but rare birds – the wild grey partridge.
The winner this year, chosen because of the considerable efforts made to restore the species on his farm, is Stuart Stark of Fridlington Farms Ltd near Sutton on the Forest.

The grey partridge population at Fridlington increased between 2012 and 2013 on the back of a number of broods successfully hatching last summer – an excellent

Stuart Stark of Fridlington Farms (left) receives the Yorkshire Grey Partridge Trophy from Paul Ainscough of sponsor’s Savills.
Stuart Stark of Fridlington Farms (left) receives the Yorkshire Grey Partridge Trophy from Paul Ainscough of sponsor’s Savills.

result given the poor 2012 breeding season, which GWCT scientists have described as “apocalyptic”. Stuart said “We are delighted to have been awarded the Yorkshire Grey Partridge Group Trophy, we will continue to improve habitat so that the number of greys may flourish and adorn the countryside in North Yorkshire.”

Fridlington Farms is a mixed farming enterprise of sheep, pigs, potatoes and cereals with linseed and oil seed rape as break crops. This intensively-managed system provides a mosaic of different habitat types and is supported by dedicated conservation and game cover in order to ensure that the year-round requirements of the grey partridge and other wild game are met.

Stuart is supported by Charlie Garbutt, his keeper, who shares his enthusiasm for the grey partridge. Charlie works closely with the farm team on the location, establishment and management of the habitat as well as ensuring his hoppers are filled through until May and controlling predators during the nesting and brood rearing season.

The Yorkshire Grey Partridge Trophy was presented by co-judge Paul Ainscough of Savills – who kindly sponsored the award. Paul added, “I much enjoyed meeting Stuart and Charlie. It was interesting to hear how the steps they have taken are helping to create a sustainable population of grey partridges on a commercial farm.”

Stuart focuses in particular on ensuring the availability of good insect rich cover to provide food for the freshly-hatched partridge chicks in late June/early July, as they require around 2,000 insects per day during their early weeks!

GWCT advisor Henrietta Appleton said, “Fridlington Farms is a worthy winner as Stuart’s and Charlie’s enthusiasm for what they are doing is evident in the results they are achieving. This is an excellent example of what can be done on an intensively managed farming enterprise given a good working relationship between the farming staff and the keeper.”

For more information about the GWCT’s grey partridge groups or for a copy of the Trust’s Conserving the grey partridge guide please contact Lynda Ferguson on lferguson@gwct.org.uk or call 01425 651013.