Farmers flock to help out with Big Farmland Bird Count

Big Farmland Bird Count.
Big Farmland Bird Count.

A murder of crows, a charm of goldfinch, a wisp of snipe, a covey of partridge, a desert of lapwings, an exaltation of skylarks, a parliament of owls, a murmuration of starlings and a herd of wrens are some of the wonderful collective nouns for many of the bird species that will be counted on farmland across the UK during the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count next month.

More than 1,400 farmers across the country have now registered to take part in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) second Big Farmland Bird Count, which will take place between February 7 and 15.

Jim Egan, from the GWCT said, “We are thrilled that so many farmers are keen to take part in this ambitious survey. It is often underestimated how much good conservation work is being carried out on UK farmland to help our threatened bird species. The Big Farmland Bird Count is an excellent way for farmers to demonstrate the wide range of conservation management that is now taking place on UK farmland for the benefit of many declining bird species such as starling, grey partridge and yellowhammer.”

February is one of the leanest times of year for farmland birds because there is very little spilt grain or berries left for hungry birds to feed on to help them survive. However, last year’s Big Farmland Bird Count revealed that more than 60 per cent of farmers taking part in the survey were providing huge amounts of additional food either by wild seed mixes, hopper feeding or by scattering grain on the ground.

Jim said: “Although a lot of conservation work is being carried out behind the scenes, it is crucial that farmers understand how these vital ‘greening’ measures are helping some of our most rapidly declining birds and importantly, what species are benefiting from these measures. Having a better understanding of what is working well is hugely important as it will help farmers to target their work for farmland bird recovery more accurately.”

During the count farmers and gamekeepers will be invited to spend half an hour recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm. Once the sightings have been recorded they should be emailed or posted to the GWCT at www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc.

In addition to running the Big Farmland Bird Count, the GWCT has organised a series of Farmland Bird Identification Days which are being run across the county in the next few weeks. These fascinating Bird ID days, which are being led by local birding experts last for 2 ½ hours, aim to help farmers and gamekeepers recognise the birds in their area, especially those hard to identify species that are known as ‘little brown jobs’.

There are still some places available on the Bird ID days, including, some new extra days. Those interested, should register on the GWCT’s website to reserve a place.

For those interested in taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count the GWCT is providing a simple tick sheet that can be downloaded from the GWCT’s website and taken into the field to record any sightings. Participants will then be able to send the results either via a dedicated web page or through the post. The results of the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count will be announced in early spring.

The GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count has captured the imagination of all those interested in the future of farmland birds. Sponsored by BASF, the count is run in partnership with the FWAG Association and LEAF and receives grateful support from a wide range of farming and industry organisations such as RSPB, Kings, Waitrose, NFU, Soil Association, CFE, CLA, Heather Trust, Conservation Grade, and Countryside Alliance .

To register interest in attending the Bird Identification Days or to download count forms, please visit: www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC or telephone: 01425 651000.