22 January 2015

A herd of wrens or a wisp of snipe – farmers take on the challenge of counting their birds

More than 1400 farmers and gamekeepers have registered to take part in the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count being organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in February. Charms or groups of goldfinches will be among the many birds that will be counted during the 2015 survey. The goldfinch is a beautiful member of the finch family. They have long, pointed beaks that make them specialists in extracting seeds. Surprisingly, it is only the males that are able to extract seeds from teasel heads; they cling to the stem and tear into it, accessing the seeds inside by probing with their extra-long bill. Outside the breeding season, goldfinches roam in large groups in search of food and groups of 100 birds are quite common. Photo © Laurie CampbellA murder of crows, a charm of goldfinch, a wisp of snipe, a covey of partridge, a desert of lapwings, an exaltation of skylarks, a parliament of owls, a murmuration of starlings and a herd of wrens are some of the wonderful collective nouns for many of the bird species that will be counted on farmland across the UK during the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count next month.

Nearly 1600 farmers across the country have now registered to take part in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) second Big Farmland Bird Count, which will take place between 7th and 15th February 2015.

Jim Egan, from the GWCT said, “We are thrilled that so many farmers are keen to take part in this ambitious survey. It is often underestimated how much good conservation work is being carried out on UK farmland to help our threatened bird species. The Big Farmland Bird Count is an excellent way for farmers to demonstrate the wide range of conservation management that is now taking place on UK farmland for the benefit of many declining bird species such as starling, grey partridge and yellowhammer.”

February is one of the leanest times of year for farmland birds because there is very little spilt grain or berries left for hungry birds to feed on to help them survive. However, last year’s Big Farmland Bird Count revealed that more than 60 per cent of farmers taking part in the survey were providing huge amounts of additional food either by wild seed mixes, hopper feeding or by scattering grain on the ground.

Jim Egan explains the reasons behind the survey, “Although a lot of conservation work is being carried out behind the scenes, it is crucial that farmers understand how these vital ‘greening’ measures are helping some of our most rapidly declining birds and importantly, what species are benefiting from these measures. Having a better understanding of what is working well is hugely important as it will help farmers to target their work for farmland bird recovery more accurately.”

During the count farmers and gamekeepers will be invited to spend 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 be emailed or posted to the GWCT at www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc.

In addition to running the Big Farmland Bird Count, the GWCT has organised a series of Farmland Bird Identification Days which are being run across the county in the next few weeks. These fascinating Bird ID days, which are being led by local birding experts last for 2 ½ hours, aim to help farmers and gamekeepers recognise the birds in their area, especially those hard to identify species that are known as ‘little brown jobs’.

There are still some places available on the Bird ID days, including, some new extra days, which are being generously supported by the FWAG Association in Essex and Derbyshire. Places are still available on Bird ID days that are running in: Scotland (Midlothian 27th January), Goole (28th January), Nottingham (30th January), Derbyshire (5th February) Essex (5th February). Those interested, should register on the GWCT’s website to reserve a place.

For those interested in taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count, between 7th and 15th February, 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 results of the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count will be announced in early spring.

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.

To register interest in attending the Bird Identification Days or to download count forms, please visit: www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC or telephone: 01425 651000.

END        

Photocaption: More than 1400 farmers and gamekeepers have registered to take part in the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count being organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in February. Charms or groups of goldfinches will be among the many birds that will be counted during the 2015 survey. The goldfinch is a beautiful member of the finch family. They have long, pointed beaks that make them specialists in extracting seeds. Surprisingly, it is only the males that are able to extract seeds from teasel heads; they cling to the stem and tear into it, accessing the seeds inside by probing with their extra-long bill. Outside the breeding season, goldfinches roam in large groups in search of food and groups of 100 birds are quite common. Photocredit: © Laurie Campbell. 


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

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