A massive 40,000 acres of special wildlife seed crops are now being grown on farmland across England according to recent figures gathered through Defra and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.
In addition, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust reports that thousands of tonnes of grain such as wheat are now being provided as supplementary food for farmland birds during the ‘hungry gap’, and this will help birds survive the leanest months of winter.
With all these vital ‘green’ measures for wildlife being provided by farmers and gamekeepers, it is crucial to understand how conservation work being carried out on farmland in this country is helping some of our most rapidly declining birds and importantly, which species are benefiting most.
In February 2014, the GWCT will be running its first annual Big Farmland Bird Count. This will be one of the largest counts of farmland birds every conducted in this country and it will help to show how our farmland bird species are faring.
Jim Egan from the GWCT’s Allerton Project Farm, said, “Farmers and Gamekeepers are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land. Their efforts to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges are therefore vital.
“We believe that having a better understanding of which conservation measures are proving to be attractive to birds and which are not will be enormously helpful in adding to our understanding of why our birds are still declining.”
The GWCT’s annual Big Farmland Bird Count will take place between the 1st and 7th February. Farmers will be invited to spend about half an hour recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm. Once the sightings have been recorded they should then be submitted either online or post to the GWCT.
Andy Roberts, who farms in the South Staffordshire area, took part in the successful GWCT’s pilot count last year, which involved more than 60 farmers and is taking part again this year. He said, “For the past few years I have been providing supplementary grain for my wild birds and I have noticed a big difference in the number and variety of birds that are being drawn to the feeding areas. I am now sharing the results through our webcam and twitter feed with many wildlife enthusiasts.
“The linnets, which are a red-listed species, are doing particularly well, and we have good populations of yellowhammer, reed buntings, bramblings and grey partridge. I am really looking forward to taking part in the GWCT’s count in February, as it will help draw attention to the often unrecognised conservation efforts for wildlife carried out by the farming community and I would urge other farmers to get involved too.”
Jim Egan says, “The Big Farmland Bird Count is a very satisfying way for people to discover the wide variety of bird species that live on a 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.”
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, please visit the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s website: www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc or email Jim Egan on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Picture Caption: Farmer Andy Roberts from South Staffordshire, who is participating in the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count in February is delighted to report that his conservation efforts are helping red-listed species such as linnets.
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.
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