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Norfolk has topped the table in a national farmland bird count – with farmers from the county completing the survey in greater numbers than... Norfolk farmers lead way in biggest ever bird count
Rare species recorded included the linnet [photo: Andy Hay / RSPB Images]

Norfolk has topped the table in a national farmland bird count – with farmers from the county completing the survey in greater numbers than anywhere else.

Organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the National Farmland Bird Count was completed by some 2,500 farmers and gamekeepers during 5-21 February – including 189 participants from Norfolk.

Nationally, participation in the annual survey of farmland birds more than doubled, said organiser Roger Draycott of the GWCT. This represented a 65% increase in the number of counts submitted compared to 2020, which was also a record year.

The land area covered by the count had more than doubled to more than 1m hectares (2.47m acres), said Dr Draycott. Some 81% more birds were recorded this year by more than 700 additional volunteers.

Dr Roger Draycott

In Norfolk, 53% of the 189 farmers and gamekeepers taking part in the survey were in an agri-environment scheme – demonstrating their long-term commitment to the environmental management of farmland.

Farmers counted 100 different species, 20 of which are red-listed and the top six most commonly seen were blackbird, robin, woodpigeons, carrion crows, blue tits and pheasants. 

“All of this helps us to build a detailed national picture of the state of Britain’s farmland birds, allowing us to better understand what is really going on in our countryside,” said Dr Draycott.

“It clearly shows that farmers, land managers and gamekeepers care for the land they work and, given that they look after 71% of all the land in the UK, that is extremely good news for the future of our bird species.”

Leading the way

Describing the survey as encouraging, Dr Draycott said the results demonstrated that farmers and land managers were leading the way in protecting the countryside – alongside their key job of producing food.

A total of 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded in this year’s count, with eight appearing in the 25 most frequently seen species list.

Of these, starlings, fieldfare, lapwing and linnet were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded, with more than 112,000 spotted in total. This equates to 22% of all the birds counted.

The five most abundant birds counted were woodpigeons, starling, rooks, fieldfare and chaffinch. Some 190,000 were seen, making up over 37% of the total number of birds recorded.

BFBC national results 2021