A BIRD loving farmer has been rewarded for his efforts to boost natural habitats for wildlife.

Martin Smith, of Burnham Wick Farm in Wick Road, Burnham, has been chosen as the first Eastern England winner of the RSPB's new Nature of Farming Award.

Although the farm has been in his family for a number of years Martin has only been farming it himself for five years.

But in that time he has managed to combine profitable farming with wildlife-friendly management.

Thanks to funding from Environmental Stewardship, Martin has created a wetland habitat at the farm and birds including corn buntings, grey partridges, lapwings and yellow wagtails all benefit from his 220 hectare site.

The lagoon or scrape, as it is also known, takes advantage of the farm's location near the Crouch estuary and uses a solar-powered pump to retain water levels throughout the year.

He has also planted special mixes of crops to provide food for wild birds and pollen for insects.

These, combined with beetle banks, which are uncultivated stubbles left over the winter, and a fallow plot have boosted numbers of corn buntings in particular.

Martin received a plaque, a cheque for £200 and RSPB management guides for farmland birds and their habitats.

He said: "It is fantastic to see my efforts are appreciated and the award has provided a pat on the back for efforts being taken here to enhance farm wildlife.

"We have been working with the RSPB on a number of things and various schemes are on the go.

"I've always been very interested in birds and that's the driving force behind it really."