Why the 4th Big Farmland Bird Count should be bigger than ever

Yellowhammer7 www.lauriecampbell.comBy Jim Egan, GWCT Head of Development and Advisory

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Big Farmland Bird Count is now in its fourth year, and during that time, it has gone from strength to strength. With over 970 farmers taking part in 2016, there were 130 species of birds recorded across approximately 900,000 acres.

We are aiming for the 2017 Big Farmland Bird Count to be even bigger, and are encouraging farmers from across the UK to take part. The count will take place from Friday 3rd to Sunday 12th February 2017 and all we’re asking farmers to do is spend half an hour one day recording the species and numbers of birds on one particular area of the farm.

Anyone who works on and cares for the land is vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges. So the primary purpose of this nationwide event is to record the effect of conservation schemes that farmers and gamekeepers have participated in, from supplementary feeding to growing wild bird seed crops and game cover crops.

On their land, farmers and gamekeepers are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country, but frequently their efforts to reverse bird declines are largely unrecorded. We want to give them an opportunity of showing what their conservation efforts deliver on the ground.

It is also a satisfying way for people to discover the different range of birds that are on the farm and the results can be surprising. We hope it will spur people on to do even more work for their farmland birds in the future and will act as a catalyst for them to start building their own long standing wildlife records.

As technology undoubtedly continues to streamline our work in all areas, this year we are delighted to be able to introduce new method for farmers to record their results. Developed with Agrantec, who are experts in using cloud technology to help farm management, the platform will be available to those who register to either access vis their computer, or to download as an App.

Once registered, participants will be able to upload their results, access species information and view their records. It also means that the GWCT will be able to collate the national results using a smarter, faster and more accurate method.

ID DaysIn addition, to help those who wish to take part, we will also hold a series of farmland bird ID days. These days have proven to be incredibly popular and next year 18 days will be held at farms across the UK from 9 January to 3 February. Each day will be run by a farmland bird expert, alongside a host farmer, and will include an ID walk to put into practice what has been learnt.

At the end of the day we would hope that participants would be able to recognise the top 20 bird species likely to be seen on farmland over winter. Book your place now so you’re ready to take part in the count.

The GWCT Allerton Project is a demonstration farm in Leicestershire, and over the course of 25 years of research the team has established that it’s possible to reverse the decline in farmland birds. Songbird numbers have changed considerably in response to game management at the Project. Following seven years of management for wild game, we saw songbird numbers doubling, and they are now 90% higher than they were in 1992.

Long-term monitoring of bird numbers is so important to enable us to identify trends in wildlife populations and the Big Farmland Brid Count, which is becoming widely acknowledged as a tool to help farmers spot those potential trends and also creates an opportunity to demonstrate the positive effects of good farmland management.

If you’re a farmer, land manager or gamekeepers please take part this time; it only takes 30 minutes to count and 15 to upload your results and it’s a great way to shout about all the good things you’re doing on your land. Get the dates in your diary now – 3rd to 12th February 2017!

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Decline of farmland birds

at 6:12 on 29/09/2016 by Anthony Oliver

Blaming farmers and changing farming practices for the apparent decline in wild bird populations on farms was becoming a little tedious, as I felt that farming in our area has not changed much for many years. I then read an article on bat population decline and the point was made that although the designation 'grazing' land may not have altered and the land used only for hay crops annually, the fact that we no longer have livestock, and therefore are not producing dung for the myriad of insects to thrive upon is having a severe impact on the available wild bird food. Therefore, our farming practice has changed and probably accounts for the loss of Treecreepers, Flycatchers, Yellowhammers (around the feed troughs) Swallows and Martins, Plovers, and bats as mentioned earlier. The summer evenings with swarms of insects are now in the past for us. We are not sure how to move forward on this one! A further report on decline of bird population in general cited 8 million domestic cats accounting for 55 million wild birds annually, and the apparent reluctance / cost of culling magpies and other corvidae is also impacting on smaller bird populations. I hope my comments are of some value to you - keep up the good work! Tony Oliver

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