The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) third Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) is now under way, with farmers across the UK starting to count their resident birds. The GWCT is encouraging all farmers and landowners to take part in the nationwide survey.
The BFBC aims to highlight the fantastic work being done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland bird numbers. We want to help them record the effect of any conservation work on their land. Based on the pioneering research at the Allerton Project (GWCT demonstration farm) over the past 23 years, the BFBC shows how simple, practical measures can massively increase farmland bird numbers.
Phil Jarvis, Farm Manager at the Allerton Project, said: “It’s amazing what a difference 24 hours can make. Storm Imogen kept me and the birds sheltering under cover, but now the weather is bright and sunny we’re all out and about again. We saw over 20 species of birds during our 30-minute count, and the highlight was over 200 fieldfares flitting between pasture and woodland.
“I encourage farmers to take a few minutes out of their day to count all the birds they see on a daily basis. Keep the Count on this week’s job list and let’s see if we can beat last year’s numbers and get over 1,000 entries!”
Taking part in the BFBC is easy. Just pick one day between 6-14 February and spend 30 minutes recording the number and species of birds seen on one area of land. Choose somewhere you know you’re likely to see some birds, such as an area of wild seed mix, somewhere you already spread seed to feed, or a field with a tall hedge and a good field margin. You can choose your own location, but somewhere with a good view of around 2 ha of the farm would be ideal. Don’t forget your binoculars and wellies!
Andy Roberts, a farmer from Wolverhampton, explains how his count went: “On the first Sunday of the Count I managed to find a window of opportunity when the weather was finally on our side. This was my third time taking part and, after following advice to spread wild bird seed mix, we have welcomed a flock of linnets to our farm! The Count only takes half an hour; try parking your tractor in a field corner and see what you can spot from the cab. You might be surprised!”
Guy Smith, NFU President, encourages farmers to join in: “This year it is hoped we will see a good turn-out of Twitching-Farmers for the BFBC. And if you are one of those not normally of that disposition why not give it a go? Not only will you be part of an initiative that seeks to provide key information about farmland wildlife, you will brush up on your spotting skills and get a better understanding of the biodiversity of your farm.”
If you’re a farmer or landowner and would like to take part in the 2016 BFBC, the GWCT has several tools to help. Along with an ID guide there is a simple recording sheet, both of which can be downloaded from the GWCT’s website. Participants can then fill in their results on a dedicated web page.
Many farmers have already taken part and submitted their sightings online, giving them an entry into a prize draw to win a fantastic pair of Swarovski SLC 8x42 multipurpose binoculars worth £1,310, kindly donated by Swarovski Optik KG.
Notes for 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 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.
* GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count is sponsored by the NFU and delivered in partnership with the Farmers Union of Wales, Ulster Farmers’ Union, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, Kings, CFE, FWAG, National Sheep Association, Camgrain, LEAF, the CLA and Perdix.
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