This blog post originally appeared on Peter's 'Fresh from the Field' blog on 19th December 2015.
Well, well, well! It is nearly time once again to dust those binoculars off and take part in the GWCT’s third “Big Farmland Bird Count”. Whether you took part last year or if it’s your first time, this is your chance to see how numbers have changed or to find out what different species are around on your own farm, or indeed if you are not a farmer, then on a nearby farm (with permission of course!!).
What's that birdie? This lot know because they have attended a farmland bird ID course!
Last year nearly 1,000 farmers took part and recorded an amazing 127 species! Farmers from every county in England participated and there were responses from Ireland, Scotland and Wales too. Very well done to the county of Norfolk as they had the most returns with 64 farmers completing the survey, closely followed by Yorkshire with 62.
Yorkshire second – surely not! Now that has to be a challenge to those who farm in “God’s own country” – their words not mine!! (Norfolk farmers – don’t let them beat you this year as we will never hear the end of it!!). As for my own county of Hampshire – I have some chivvying to do – surely we can come top, both on the number of farmers counting and species recorded!
Guy Smith – well known farmer and NFU vice president says; “I often hear farmers grumble that while they are quietly proud of how much wildlife they have on their farms they get fed up with reports in the media that modern farming is bad for birds. I can understand the frustration but to my mind the answer is, don't just be proud – be loud. So, come next February get the binoculars out, dust off the notepad, sharpen the pencil and get recording!”
So why am I shouting about the BFBC if it doesn't happen, as Guy says, until February? Well my little budding twitchers, I am giving you time to get some training in beforehand! No, not fitness training after Christmas's debauchery, but some preparation time before the big event, so that you can tell a Dunnock (little grey and brown job – LGBJ) from a Meadow Pipit (little brown job - LBJ).
Yes, this is your chance to come on a farmland bird ID course before you go out to check up on what you have got on the farm. Let’s face it, some of these LBJ’s are just that and not a lot else, as they sit silently in a thorn bush or shuffle about in a stubble field.
But wait, this ID course will tell you all about the bird’s “Jizz” – a fabulous birding word that is used to describe what the bird does and how it behaves. How does it sit in that thorn bush – on its own or in a flock, in an upright way or horizontally, on top of the bush or skulking around at the base? How does it move about in the stubble field – does it hop, walk, shuffle or run!
All these things help you slowly eliminate some birds and home in on others, eventually nailing the bird that you are looking at! Each course will also cover what different bird species need to over-winter successfully on your farm and give details of how you can help them do just that, by providing what they need. Indeed, once you know what species you have in your locality, then you can target your management directly at those birds.
So, how about signing up to one of these ID days that is happening near you – we have arranged 17 locations across the country, so there should be one not too far away. This will then enable you to strut, stride, skip or stomp, (depending on your personal jizz) around the farm for about half-an-hour, on one day between 6-14 February, with enormous confidence that you are noting down birds that you really have identified correctly with your newly learnt skills!
Finally, this year we have a superb new offer. Along with our very loyal sponsors BASF who enable us to hold these training days and the great BFBC event, if you complete all the relevant information and send your forms back to the GWCT, you will automatically be entered into a prize draw for a fantastic pair of SLC 8x42 binoculars, donated by Swarovski Optic. These are seriously good binoculars that will last you a lifetime.
Go on a training course AND win these superb binoculars and you will really have absolutely no excuse - any bird preening before you will prove to be an absolute walk in the park for you to ID!
Please sign up to our Bird Identification Days online, where you can also download the count forms you'll need to take part in the count.
Come on everyone - lets smash last year's totals!!