FARMERS are being urged: Help the skylarks!
The fortunes of next year's nesting skylarks in West Yorkshire can be determined at the flick of a switch as cereal farmers in the county plant their crops this autumn, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Skylark plots - small patches of land left bare when the seed drill is turned off as the seed is sown - are among a range of easy measures farmers can take to help the birds.
And the good news is that now they can be paid for the work.
The new Environmental Stewardship schemes pay for measures that help wildlife. Farmers are being urged to use the schemes to help rescue birds like the skylark.
In order to benefit next year's nesting skylarks, patches must be created in the next few weeks as crops are sown.
Andrew Gouldstone, RSPB regional conservation manager, said: "Skylark plots work for the birds and for the farmer. They benefit other species, such as yellowhammers, which use them as giant dining tables where they can find the insects they eat.
"Farmers can create four-metre by four- metre skylark plots at the flick of a switch on the seed drill. Elsewhere in fields, crops become too dense for skylarks to feed or nest, forcing them into tractor tramlines, where they are vulnerable to predators and vehicles."
Skylark plots have only a tiny impact on crop yield and the RSPB believes that if plots were created in just one in five of the UK's arable fields the 52% decline which skylarks have suffered since 1970 could be reversed.