Farm wildlife and biodiversity

Biodiversity on Balliefurth Farm

Balliefurth Banter

I visited Balliefurth for the first time in 1998 and now hardly a month goes by without me seeing Ann and Alistair at the farm. Balliefurth is an environment of superlatives, whether looked at from a landscape or wildlife viewpoint and, like the wildlife, I am drawn back to it time and time again.

What is perhaps surprising is that Balliefurth is a real working commercial farm, not a hobby farm or a nature reserve. Yet it’s wildlife rivals that of any ‘protected’ area in Scotland and some of it can be seen from the Speyside Way which runs through the middle of the farm.

Balliefurth Calendar

During the spring, the farm is alive with the sound of birds such as Skylark, Meadow pipit, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Snipe and Redshank and it forms part of a group of local farms that hold the highest number of breeding farmland waders in mainland Great Britain.

As the spring progresses, the grassland flowers come into their own and a fantastic array of butterflies and moths can be found around the farm.

Once the harvest begins in late summer, the freshly mown fields are alive with birds. Areas of sacrificial crops, heavy with seed begin to attract finches and buntings that are in decline in other parts of the country.

A walk down to the River Spey might reveal a dipper, a leaping salmon, a family of Goldeneye ducks or if you are lucky a fly-by Osprey or family of otters at the confluence of the River Dulnain.

The first frosts of autumn bring in ducks and geese and later on flocks of ghostly white Icelandic Whooper swans. As the weather gets colder, the small seed-eating birds come to the sacrificial crops in increasing numbers.

The sight of over 3000 birds in one field is breathtaking, with rare or scarce birds such as Bramblings and Twite recorded in impressive numbers (up to 200 and 1200 respectively in January 2003).

With such large numbers of small birds present, they attract a fantastic array of aerial predators keen to sample the Balliefurth menu! I have had some of my best ever views of hunting Hen harrier, Sparrowhawk, Merlin, Peregrine, Buzzard and Kestrel by just sitting quietly on the Speyside way and watching the action unfold.

A winter’s walk through the woods might reveal a Crested Tit, Bullfinch, a Scottish Wildcat or even a Scottish Crossbill, but that’s for another day‚Ķ..

Dr Peter Cosgrove
Cairngorms Biodiversity Officer

Alastair won the National Farmers Union Excellence Award for Farmland Biodiversity in 2002. We were also runner up in the Silver Lapwing Award 2002. This is the premier farm conservation award in the UK.


Balliefurth Biodiversity List (to date)
UK BAP Priority Species present at Balliefurth: 19 regular species confirmed, species passage visitor*

Brown hare Bullfinch Capercaillie
Corncrake Freshwater pearl Grey partridge
Juniper Linnet Mussel
Otter Pearl bordered fritillary Pipistrelle bat
Red Squirrel Reed bunting Scottish crossbill
Skylark Song thrush Spotted flycatcher
Twinflower Water vole Wryneck

Note: A new species for Great Britain, Aspen Bracket Fungi, was discovered on Aspen at Balliefurth Farm in 2001.

UK BAP Species of Conservation Concern present at Balliefurth: 81 regular species confirmed

Atlantic salmon Badger Barn owl
Blue tit Brambling Brown long-eared bat
Buzzard Chiffchaff Coal tit
Common crossbill Common shrew Crested tit
Curlew Daubenton's bat Dipper
Dunlin Dunnock Fieldfare
Frog Goldcrest Golden plover
Goldeneye Goldfinch Goosander
Great tit Greenfinch Grey wagtail
Grey-lag goose Hedgehog Hen Harrier
Herring gull House martin Kestrel
King Fisher Lamprey (3 species) Lapwing
Long-eared owl Mallard Great spotted Meadow pipit
Merganser Merlin Mute swan
Osprey Peregrine Pied wagtail
Pine martin Pink-footed goose Red-breasted
Redpoll Redshank Redstart
Redwing Ringed plover Roe deer
Sand martin Short-eared owl Snipe
Snow bunting Sparrow hawk Stoat
Stonechat Swallow Siskin Tawny owl
Teal Toad Tree pipit
Treecreeper Tufted duck Water rail
Weasel Wheatear Whinchat
Whooper swan Wigeon Wildcat
Willow warbler Woodcock Woodpecker

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