30 September 2014

Save that date for the birds!

Tree sparrows (Passer montanus) are mostly found in hedges and woodland edges. They are smaller than house sparrows and nest in small holes in trees. Although they have suffered a severe decline, their population is showing an encouraging increase in certain areas of the country. Tree sparrows can benefit hugely from conservation measures being implemented by farmers such as putting up nest boxes and providing supplementary over-winter food. They particularly like insect rich foraging areas and benefit from nest boxes that have been placed near these areasThe Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has announced that its second Big Farmland Bird Count 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.

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 said, “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.”

As an added incentive for those wishing to take part in the 2015 count, the GWCT is organising a series of 10 free farmland bird identification days in January 2015. Taking place across the UK, the free 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.

Jim Egan said, “We would like people to register their interest in attending these 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 which will be available on our website too.”

The ID days are being generously sponsored by BASF and will be delivered by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust as well as local experts from the RSPB, LEAF*, FWAG* and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE).

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.”

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 Kings, Waitrose, NFU, RSPB, Soil Association, CFE, CLA, Heather Trust, Conservation Grade, Countryside Alliance, as well as local and national media.

To register interest in attending the Free Bird Identification Days being held in 10 locations across the country, please visit: www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC or telephone: 01425 651000.

END                                  

Picture caption: (Picture credit: Peter Thompson, GWCT) Tree sparrows (Passer montanus) are mostly found in hedges and woodland edges. They are smaller than house sparrows and nest in small holes in trees. Although they have suffered a severe decline, their population is showing an encouraging increase in certain areas of the country. Tree sparrows can benefit hugely from conservation measures being implemented by farmers such as putting up nest boxes and providing supplementary over-winter food. They particularly like insect rich foraging areas and benefit from nest boxes that have been placed near these areas.

 

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

 

GWCT’s Allerton Project farm, Loddington, Leicestershire - Farmland ecology research in the 1970s and 1980s carried out by the Trust has resulted in the majority of wildlife enhancing measures that we now see in today’s agri-environment schemes. The Trust’s 333 ha Allerton Project at Loddington is a mixed arable and livestock farm that is unique within the UK in having developed a wide range of practical ways of restoring wildlife and integrating this approach into the farm business. The result of these wildlife-friendly farming techniques is the dramatic increases in wild game, farmland birds and other wildlife. As well as research, the Trust runs a range of courses which aim to bring together the wider aspects of biodiversity and wildlife conservation to encapsulate all the important aspects of environmental management.

* 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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