22/1/2016

Guest blog by Guy Smith, NFU vice-president

Collared _Dove 500So it's coming up to that time of year when we arm ourselves with binoculars, note pad and bird books to play our part in the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count.

I like to think that my knowledge of birds is just about up to scratch. I can distinguish my Turtle doves from my Collared Doves. But I will readily confess that I’m no twitcher. My ornithological vocabulary can be rather overpopulated with ‘LBJs’ (Little Brown Jobs) when it comes to identifying a lot of small bird species seen from the cab.

Occasionally I’ll come across something I don’t recognise. These are usually rare migrants that pay my coastal farm a fleeting visit in the spring or autumn when migratory birds are on the move. This will result in a sudden mass arrival of twitchers camping out with their telescopes on tripods on the road that snakes down to our marsh fields.

When driving past these small assemblies of bird-spotters I’ll stop the tractor to find out what rarity has graced my farm with its presence. Just the other day I was duly informed it was a pair of ‘Pallid Harriers’ that could be spied through the long lenses.

Chatting with the Twitchers I could but conclude that they were a rather dull species with an unusual gait. By contrast the Pallid Harriers had distinctive markings and were masterful in the air.

The twitching-farmer is a clearly identifiable sub-species in the twitcher genus. For starters they are early moulters. Whereas your standard twitcher will still be seen in an anorak late into the spring the twitching-farmer will usually be found in just a T-shirt as early as late February.

The call of the twitching-farmer is also distinct. In times past it was thought the call went along the lines of 'Getorfmylan, Getorfmylan' but more recently ornithologists have concluded that what was actually being trilled was 'Getmecheeseanham, Getmecheeseanham ' which is thought to be a reference to their favourite sandwiches.

So this year it is hoped we will see a good turn-out of Twitching-Farmers in mid February for the Big Farmland Bird count. And if you are one of those not normally of that disposition why not give it a go?

Not only will you be part of an initiative that seeks to provide key information about farmland wildlife, you will brush up on your spotting skills and get a better understanding of the biodiversity of your farm. Now where is my old bird-book. Was that LBJ that just flew past a Linnet or a Redpoll?

The third #BFBC takes place between 6th and 14th February 2016

We're asking people to spend 30 minutes on any one day between the 6th and 14th February recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.

Sign up for Big Farmland Bird Count reminders > 

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