A fantastic effort from farmers across the UK has helped secure a best-ever year for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC).
Results show 1,400 people – a 40% increase on last year – recorded 140 species over 1 million acres in the GWCT initiative which took place between 8 and 17 February.
Encouragingly, a total of 30 red-listed species were recorded, with 5 appearing in the most-commonly seen species list. These included fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, yellowhammers and song thrushes, with the first four seen by over 30% of the farms taking part.
The five most abundant birds seen in the UK count were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks. A total of 148,661 were spotted, making up nearly 50% of the total number of birds recorded.
In Scotland, 61 farmers took part, recording 93 species across 57,881 acres. The most-commonly seen species were blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, pheasant and robin. A total of 18 red-listed species were recorded. Last year in Scotland 43 farmers took part, recording 79 species across 32,424 acres. Red listed species remained the same at 18.
The average farm size of those taking part across the UK was 739 acres, with 66% growing arable crops, 52% having beef or sheep, and 13% growing field vegetables. There were also dairy farms, horticulture units, poultry producers and pig producers submitting counts.
The survey areas included important environmental features such as hedges, woodland ponds, grass margins, ditches and trees.
The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds. The count offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation work currently being instigated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as scatter feeding birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.
Dr Dave Parish, Head of Lowland Research, GWCT Scotland, said:
“We are encouraged that more farms took part this year than last, not just in Scotland but over the UK as a whole. The more participants there are clearly the better we can determine the health of our on-farm wild bird species.
The GWCT is grateful to NFU for sponsoring the BFBC, which was delivered in partnership with FWAG Association, LEAF, CLA, Kings and NFU Scotland.
To view the UK results in full, visit www.bfbc.org.uk/2019results