Thursday, August 22, 2019

Record-breaking success for Big Farmland Bird Count

May 1, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

An estimated 1400 people took part in this year’s Big Farmland Bird Count – recording 140 different bird species across 400,000ha.

A total of 30 rare or red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the most-commonly seen species list. These included fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, yellowhammers and song thrushes, with the first four seen by over 30% of the farms taking part.

The  Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) initiative took place from 8-17 February. The five most abundant birds seen were wood pigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks. A total of 148,661 were found, making up nearly 50% of the total number of birds recorded.

Norfolk had by far the most returns, with 145 farmers completing the survey. This was followed by Suffolk with 92, Herefordshire with 63 and Hampshire with 60. The most-commonly seen species were blackbirds, wood pigeons, blue tits, robins and pheasants.

Skills and knowledge

“It’s brilliant to see an increase in the number of participants,” said Jim Egan, who has co-ordinated the count for the past six years. “I’m particularly pleased by the way the facilitation funds and farmer clusters have worked together to embrace this across a landscape scale.

“The fact that in many cases farmers and birders have worked together and inspired each other shows the power of sharing our skills and knowledge. A huge congratulations to everyone involved.”

As well as recording bird numbers, the annual count highlights the work done by farmers to create and maintain wildlife habitats – including environmental features such as hedges, woodland ponds, grass margins, ditches and trees.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “It is often unappreciated that many farmers provide habitats and additional feeding for birds during the winter months. The Big Farmland Bird Count is a fantastic way for farmers to record the birdlife found on their farms.

Threatened species

“I’d like to thank all those farmers who braved Storm Erik on launch day to carry out the count despite driving rain and strong winds. It’s great that many different threatened species were recorded this year such as lapwing and fieldfare that I saw on my own farm.”

The average farm size of those taking part was 300ha, with 66% growing arable crops, 52% having beef or sheep, and 13% growing field vegetables. Dairy farms, horticultural growers, poultry producers and pig producers also submitted counts.