02 February 2014

More than 900 UK farmers sign up to count their birds

Henry Lang from Curry Rivel in Somerset, springing into action to feed and count his farmland birds.  Henry Lang was one of the first of more than 900 farmers who will be counting their farmland birds this week. Henry’s bird count revealed an impressive array of farmland birds, which are benefiting from the many conservation measures being implemented on the farm, including over-winter feeding of grain, wild bird seed crops, excellent hedges and 6 metre grass margins.More than 900 farmers have now registered to take part in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Big Farmland Bird Count taking place this week between 1 – 7th February across the UK.

In the vanguard of those keen to count their birds this week was Henry Lang, who was one of the first to submit his Big Farmland Bird Count carried out on his 1,000 acre commercial farm at Curry Rivel, Somerset this weekend. 

In just half an hour, Henry Lang managed to locate an impressive range of birds on a 5 acre wheat field on his farm. The field, which is surrounded by 6 metre grass margins, excellent hedges and wild bird seed crops proved a haven for wild birds and the count in this small area revealed flocks of 60 fieldfares, 20 starlings as well as blackbirds, wren, blue tit, reed buntings, song thrush, dunnock, pied wagtail, goldfinch, grey partridge and two tiny goldcrests - one of our smallest bird species.

Peter Thompson, the GWCT’s farmland Biodiversity Advisor, said, “Henry showed that, although he runs a profitable commercial farming operation, wild birds are thriving because of the wildlife habitats that have been incorporated in blocks around the farm together with supplementary over-winter feeding. Henry is particularly proud of his 40 acres of wild flower meadows, which are now encouraging the spread of species such as marble white butterflies to different areas on his land. In addition Henry has established 48km of 6 metre grass margins as well as recent planting of 14,000 new native trees and shrubs.”

For those interested in taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count, the GWCT is providing a simple tick sheet that can be downloaded 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.

Peter Thompson explains the reason for the count, “Farmers play a crucial role in the survival of farmland birds through the wide range of conservation measures that they are now implementing on their land.  But it is vital  to understand how these ‘green’ measures are helping some of our most rapidly declining birds and importantly, which species are benefiting most.”

As well as monitoring the effect of conservation schemes, participating in the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird count is a very satisfying way for people to discover the wide variety of bird species that live on a farm. Peter Thompson said, “The result of spending just a short time monitoring your birds can be surprising and very satisfying to see the results. We hope it will spur people on to do even more work for their farmland birds in the future.”

The GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count is being generously sponsored by BASF and in partnership with FWAG (Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group) and LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming)

For more information on the Big Farmland Bird Count or to participate, please visit the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s website:  www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc .

END

Photocaption: Henry Lang from Curry Rivel in Somerset, springing into action to feed and count his farmland birds.  Henry Lang was one of the first of more than 900 farmers who will be counting their farmland birds this week. Henry’s bird count revealed an impressive array of farmland birds, which are benefiting from the many conservation measures being implemented on the farm, including over-winter feeding of grain, wild bird seed crops, excellent hedges and 6 metre grass margins. 


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:
Joel Holt
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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