13 January 2020

Farmers count when it comes to nature recovery

  • National initiative to show the important role of farming in the British countryside
  • Last year over 1400 farmers took the time to count their wildlife
  • 30 rare species spotted including much-loved starlings and song thrushes

Partridge Farm Walk

With veganism, climate change and even lab-grown food all hot topics in the news, the public debate about the future of farming has intensified in recent weeks. Britain’s farmers are uniting to show that, as well as providing our nation’s food, they are also playing an important role in protecting wildlife. 

Next month sees the seventh Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) – a national initiative for farmers to count the birds they see on their farm. Last year more than 1,400 farmers took part in the count to see what was on their farm, with some encouraging results. 

Over 30 red-listed species, those with the highest level of conservation concern, were among the 140 different birds spotted. These included fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows and yellowhammers – all of which were seen by over 30% of farms taking part.

The 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count will take place from 7-16 February and offers a simple way of recording the effect of conservation schemes put in place by farmers and gamekeepers. Introducing wild bird mixes and providing supplementary feeding both provide food through the leaner months of the year, supporting bird species when they need it most. By monitoring the positive impact, farmers feel a sense of reward and will share their success stories with others.

The results of the count are not just a celebration of the individual achievements of the hardworking farmers involved, they give an insight into where certain bird species might be thriving and where more work needs to be done. This national picture also helps to show where subsidies and environmental schemes are succeeding and where improvements might be needed.

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by land managers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds and is led by Dr Roger Draycott, head of advisory services for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). He said: “Farmers have a vital role play to play in the future of many of our most cherished farmland bird species. As over 70% of the UK is managed for agriculture farmers manage our largest songbird habitat, but their efforts to reverse bird declines are often unrecorded. We believe our Big Farmland Bird Count will help remedy this.

“It is also amazing what a difference knowing about the birdlife on your farm can make. By appreciating how small changes can bring about a real uplift in the number of birds, farmers we work with have found new enthusiasm for their work. That’s why we’re encouraging farmers who haven’t taken part before to give it a go and see what they find.”

To help those who are new to the count, GWCT provides free bird ID guides, spotter guides and profiles on the most commonly-seen species on the BFBC website.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

The GWCT would like to extend its thanks to the NFU for being the main sponsor and all our partners for actively promoting the count to their members and supporters.

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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