05 December 2014

Save that date for the birds!

Starlings were seen on over 40% of the farms taking part in the 2014 survey and were the most abundant bird recorded.  Starling numbers have declined markedly across much of northern Europe and the UK. Picture credit: Peter Thompson, GWCTThe Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has announced that its second Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) will take place between 7th and 15th February 2015. This leading UK research charity is asking farmers, landowners, birdwatchers and gamekeepers to spend 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the firm this coming winter.

As an added incentive for those wishing to take part in the 2015 count, the GWCT is organising a series of 10 farmland bird identification days in January 2015. Taking place across the UK, the ID days are designed to help farmers and gamekeepers improve their identification skills ahead of the count. Each session will last for approximately two and half hours and at the end of the training participants should be able to recognise the top 24 birds likely to be seen on farmland this coming winter.

Despite 2014 being the wettest winter since records began in 1910, more than 500 people, who manage nearly half-million acres of UK farmland put on their wellington boots, grabbed their binoculars and took part in this hugely successful first count of farmland birds this year.

Jim Egan from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust says, “Our Big Farmland Bird Count was a remarkable achievement. Farmers who participated in our count recorded over 116 different species of birds – many of which are on the red-list of birds of conservation concern such as starlings, lapwing, and tree sparrow. Farmers certainly demonstrated how much they care about their wonderful farmland birds by getting involved in our count. It also showed that even some of our most rapidly declining bird species are out there and being supported by the many conservation measures that are being implemented on UK farmland.”

Jim Egan continues, “We would like people to register their interest in attending our bird ID days as soon as possible as we anticipate that many farmers and other interested people will want to receive expert training to improve their bird identification skills ready for the count. We are also producing a simple downloadable ID guide with wonderful bird illustrations provided by the RSPB. These will be given to participants as well as being available on our website too.”

The GWCT believes that the efforts being made by farmers to reverse bird declines frequently go unrecognised despite them being vital in safeguarding the future of many of our most cherished bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges. Jim Egan explains, “Our Big Farmland Bird Count helps to remedy this as it showcases some of the remarkable conservation efforts being carried out by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers. It is also a useful way to measure how birds are faring on our farms across the country. We hope that even more people will register to join the BFBC in 2015 to make it even more successful.”

For those interested in taking part in the 2015 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 GWCT is inviting people to spend about half an hour recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm.

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,

You can book your place on one of the Bird Identification Days being held in 10 locations across the country here, or download count forms by visiting www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC or telephoning 01425 651000


Dates for the GWCT Bird Identification Days:

  • Bucks – 13th January, Tingewick Bucks (Event delivered by Peter Thompson, GWCT)
  • Cumbria – 15th January, Calthwaite, Penrith (delivered by Paul Arkel/Suemus Eaves, FWAG)
  • Norfolk – 21st January, Downham Market (delivered by Heidi Thomson/Henry Walker, FWAG)
  • Warwicks – 22nd January, Southam, Warwicks (delivered by Bob Slater/Matt Wilmott, Natural England)
  • Hampshire – 26th January, East Tisted, near Alton (delivered by Peter Thompson, GWCT)
  • Norfolk – 26th January, Hockwold (delivered by Roger Draycott, GWCT/Andrew Holland, RSPB)
  • Somerset – 26th January, Curry Rivel, Langport (delivered by Gary Rumbold, FWAG)
  • Scotland – 27th January, Midlothian, Scotland (delivered by Dr Dave Parish, GWCT)
  • East Yorkshire – 28th January, Rawclifffe Bridge, Goole (delivered by Chris Thomson, RSPB)
  • Nottinghamshire – 30th January, Linby, Notts (delivered by Lesley Sharpe)

Photocaption: Starlings were seen on over 40% of the farms taking part in the 2014 survey and were the most abundant bird recorded.  Starling numbers have declined markedly across much of northern Europe and the UK. Picture credit: Peter Thompson, GWCT.


Notes for editors:

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats and we lobby for agricultural and conservation policies based on science. We employ 14 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse. For Information, contact: Morag Walker – Head of Media, Telephone – 01425-652381 (direct 01425-651000) Mobile – 07736-124097 www.gwct.org.uk

* Organisations supporting the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count include, RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group), NFU (National Farmers Union), Kings, Waitrose, Soil Association, CFE (Campaign for the Farmed Environment), CLA (Country Landowners Association), Heather Trust, Conservation Grade, and Countryside Alliance.

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