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Mown Grassland For Corncrakes or Chough

Option closed to new applications

Introduction

The aim of this Option is to provide protection for Corncrakes and to provide foraging opportunities for Chough.

What this will achieve

This Option can benefit Corncrakes by creating or maintaining the conditions necessary for Corncrakes to nest and raise broods, including providing tall vegetation cover throughout the summer.

Chough feed almost exclusively on invertebrates that are found in the soil and in animal dung. Optimum conditions during chick-rearing (to late June) are where there are both late closed-off fields for mowing and some permanently sheep-grazed grassland. At fledging time, from mid-June onwards silage aftermaths (grass stubble) are also used for foraging, especially in areas close to the communal roosts traditionally used by family groups and fledglings. This Option benefits chough by providing grazed pasture from April to late June in which adults can forage to feed their chicks. Fields within a 1 km radius of nest sites will give best results. This Option also provides pasture that is grazed during the winter months and this will provide foraging opportunities for adult birds.

Hay and silage crops are especially beneficial where cutting dates are staggered to extend the period when a freshly cut crop is available between mid-June and the end of July. Applications that can demonstrate a range of cutting dates in the local area will therefore benefit chough the most.

Where both Corncrakes and Chough are present, you can select the Option most appropriate to your own area. The only combination that you cannot select is the combination of the later start to stock exclusion and the earliest cutting date because this would not provide adequate protection for young corncrakes.

Other Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species that may benefit includes the Brown Hare. Other bird species that may benefit include Curlew and Meadow Pipit.

What you can do

Requirements

You must manage your land to benefit either Corncrakes or Chough or both species.

To benefit Corncrakes:

You must undertake this Option next to an area entered into one of the following Rural Priorities Options:

You must exclude livestock from hay or silage fields from 15 May to establish areas of cover suitable for Corncrakes to nest and raise broods

You must not roll, harrow or graze the fields from 15 May until after mowing. Where nests of ground nesting birds are present before 15 May, the nests should be marked and avoided

These areas must be cut but cutting must be delayed until after 1 August (Option 1), 15 August (Option 2) or 1 September (Option 3) to ensure that most chicks are old enough to escape from the mower. The later cutting Options will receive a higher payment.

To benefit chough you can delay making hay or silage:

  • You must provide areas suitable for Chough to forage in during chick rearing and fledging periods by grazing pasture until 14th June and then exclude livestock from hay or silage fields from 15 June and:
  • You must not roll, harrow or graze the field from 15 June until after mowing
  • Do not mow before 15th August. You can cut these areas either after 15 August (Option 2) or 1 September (Option 3)
  • Where nests of ground nesting birds are present before 15 June, the nests should be marked and avoided

Whether your management is to benefit chough or corncrakes or both species:

  • You must cut the hay and silage in a wildlife-friendly manner to minimise the risk of injury to young birds
  • You must establish temporary cover for at least two weeks after the field has been mown to enable corncrakes to move into more permanent cover. The temporary cover must be:
    • Tall vegetation such as iris, nettles, cow parsely, rush, unmown grass, wild bird seed mix/unharvested crop or a combination of these
    • Directly adjacent to permanent Corncrake cover
    • At least 2 metres wide around the field boundary, except where the field is less than 40 metres wide where temporary cover may be provided on one side of the field only
  • You must not apply pesticides to the temporary cover except with prior written agreement of the Scottish Ministers for activities such as spot treatment of injurious weeds or control of invasive non-native species
  • The same field need not be chosen each year where you rotate winter keep production around the grassland area. However, if this is the case, you will need to provide details to the Scottish Government of the different fields and their locations and areas in your application. If, during the lifetime of your plan you agree a different rotation to that originally approved, the area upon which the annual management payment is calculated will be restricted to either the originally approved area or the revised area, whichever is smaller.

Who can apply

All managers of land within Argyll Islands, Skye, Small Isles, Western Isles, Orkney or parts of the north coast of the Scottish Mainland which support Corncrake populations are eligible to apply for this Option.

All managers of land in the Argyll Islands or in Wigtownshire where Choughs occur are eligible to apply for this Option.

Eligibility criteria

The Option is available for grassland fields used for extensive hay or silage production.

Land receiving payments for similar management under other agri-environment schemes is not eligible under this Option.

To benefit Corncrakes:

The fields must be next to an area entered into one of the following Rural Priorities Options:

To benefit Chough:

The fields must be on in-bye rotational grassland, on permanent grassland and pastures dominated by a variety of grassland types that are maintained by seasonal or year round grazing.

Please see Definitions of Land Types page for more details.

What costs could be supported

For a comprehensive list of Capital Items click here. Any cost claimed must be fully justified. The following are examples of what may be claimed:

When completing your Proposal, you can select the appropriate capital item(s) from the dropdown list of standard cost capital items for this Option.

In addition to the above capital items, financial support of up to 100% of eligible actual costs is available in respect of the following:

Please note that these capital items will not appear in the dropdown list of Standard Cost capital items for this Option and will need to be entered manually in the box for Actual Cost capital items. Only costs for the types of capital works listed above should be entered in the Actual Cost capital items box for this Option. Any other costs entered cannot be considered for funding.

To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.

Rate of support

This is a 5-year commitment. We will pay at the end of each year:

For Corncrakes:

£271 per hectare per year for Option 1, £381 per hectare for Option 2 and £691 per hectare for Option 3.

For Chough:

£429 per hectare for Option 2 and £691 per hectare for Option 3.

Inspections/verification

The inspector will check the requirements (as detailed above under 'what you can do') of the Option are being met, by a visual assessment on the day of inspection.

Beneficiaries must comply with the requirements of cross compliance and the minimum requirements for fertiliser and plant protection products. You must also comply with the requirements to avoid damaging any features of historic or archaeological interest, and follow Scottish Ministers' guidance for the protection of such areas or features (detailed in links below).

The following is a brief overview of the inspection procedures, for a full explanation please see links below:

Inspectors will check:

  • Where management is carried out to benefit Corncrakes, the Option is being carried out in combination with one of the other Corncrake Options or the Wild Bird Seed Mix/Unharvested Crop Option
  • Field has not been rolled, harrowed or grazed after the agreed date
  • Field is mown after the agreed mowing date in a wildlife-friendly manner
  • Presence of 2 m uncut strip(s)
  • Claimed capital items have been completed to approved amounts and scheme standards

List of links to relevant technical guidance