11 December 2014

Farming industry unites to support the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count

(l-r) Graham Hartwell (BASF and sponsor), Guy Smith (NFU Vice President), Iain Dillon (Farm Manager, RSPB Hope Farm), Joe Martin (FWAG Association Chair), Sir Jim Paice MP (Chair, GWCT Allerton Project), Tim Breitmeyer (CLA Vice President) and Jim Egan (GWCT)The launch of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count got off to a remarkable start this week, when all the GWCT’s key partner organisations plus local farmers spent the day on the GWCT’s first bird identification day on the award-winning LEAF demonstration farm of Patrick Barker in Suffolk.

Graham Hartwell from BASF, the Big Farmland Bird Count’s main sponsor together with Sir James Paice MP joined forces with Guy Smith, Vice President of the NFU; Tim Breitmeyer, Vice President of CLA, and Joe Martin, FWAG Association chair, to receive professional bird identification training from Peter Thompson, the GWCT’s birding expert as well as experiencing a bird ringing demonstration from the Waveney Bird Club Ringers.

Guy Smith from the NFU, is a huge enthusiast of the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count and said, “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 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 note pad, sharpen the pencil and get recording as you go out and about on the farm; then post your results to GWCT. We're always interested in how many tonnes of wheat we can get to the hectare, now let's systematically record how many bird species we can achieve per farm.”

Patrick Barker, who participated in the first Big Farmland Bird Count and runs a 1,260 farm with his cousin Brian near Stowmarket hosted the ID day for the GWCT. Patrick said, “Collecting data on the species that thrive on our farm is crucial as it helps us to target wildlife conservation as well as helping to highlight our successes. The Big Farmland Bird Count really helps to demonstrate the positive efforts made by farmers across the country.”

The 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count will take place between 7 and 15 February, with 10 bird identification training days being held across the country in January.

In a vote of thanks at the end of the day, CLA Vice-President Tim Breitmeyer said, “We are delighted that the GWCT has initiated this important count scheme and through the ID days are helping people to recognise the birds on their land. I would urge CLA members to get involved and take part. As we have seen today, having good data and knowledge is vital so that we can more accurately target farmland bird recovery as well as appreciating how the efforts of our members are really making a difference.”

The ID days, which last for 2 ½ hours will be run by expert birders including RSPB, LEAF, FWAG and GWCT. As places will be limited, people need to book in advance online at www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc. A free bird identification guide will be available on the ID days as well as being available on the GWCT website. Illustrations for the guide have been kindly provided by the RSPB.

To take part in the actual count farmers need to just spend half an hour in a specific part of the farm, and complete a special count form which can be downloaded from the GWCT’s website at: www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc.

The 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count is being run in partnership with LEAF and the FWAG Association and together with the ID days is generously sponsored by industry partner BASF. Graham Hartwell, BASF’s environmental stewardship manager, who attended the ID day, commented, “BASF are delighted to support the GWCT and the 2015 count. It is a fantastic opportunity to show how modern farming can support a vibrant and healthy countryside by applying simple targeted methods. Today was an inspiration and the GWCT’s ID day brought additional insight into what can be achieved by modern farmers. I would urge everyone involved in managing our countryside to take part in the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count.

 Dates for the Bird Identification Days

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

END

Photocaption: Pictured: (from left to right) Graham Hartwell (BASF and sponsor), Guy Smith (NFU Vice President), Iain Dillon (Farm Manager, RSPB Hope Farm), Joe Martin (FWAG Association Chair), Sir Jim Paice MP (Chair, GWCT Allerton Project), Tim Breitmeyer (CLA Vice President) and Jim Egan (GWCT).


Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The 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. We employ 22 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.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk


Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is an independent wildlife conservation charity which carries out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 40 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming 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.

The GWCT’s Allerton Project: The GWCT’s Allerton Project is an 800 acre commercial farm business attached to a Research and Educational charitable trust. The Project was established in 1992 with the objective of demonstrating how modern efficient farming and environmental conservation can co-exist. The development of the education objectives of the Trust has expanded substantially to several thousand visitors a year including school groups, politicians and farmers, thus necessitating the construction of a larger visitor centre. The challenge of converting a disused brick cowshed into a sustainable building was given to architect Sylvester Cheung from Melton Mowbray. 60 per cent of construction costs were obtained as a grant from the Rural Development Programme for England.

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