Big Farmland Bird Count draws near


Wildlife enthusiasts across the country are being urged to take part in the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC), which is back for its seventh successive year.

The nationwide citizen science project calls on farmers, land managers and gamekeepers to spend 30 minutes logging the species seen on their land between 7 and 16 February 2020.

Crucially, the results will aim to determine which farmland birds are benefiting from conservation efforts, while identifying the ones most in need of help.

Yellowhammer is an iconic species of British farmland, yet its numbers continue to decline (Alex Blatchford).

Organising the count this year is Dr Roger Draycott, Head of Advisory Services for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). He said: "Farmers and gamekeepers are vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species, such as Eurasian Skylarks, Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings and wild Grey Partridges.

"They are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land, but frequently their efforts to reverse bird declines are largely unrecorded. We believe our Big Farmland Bird Count will help remedy this.

"We understand the crucial role that land managers play in the survival of farmland birds and we want to give them an opportunity of showing what their conservation efforts deliver on the ground.

"It is also a satisfying way to discover the different range of birds that are on the farm and the results can be surprising. We hope it will spur land managers on to do even more work for their farmland birds in the future and that it will act as a catalyst for them to start building their own long-standing wildlife records."

Counting species such as Grey Partridge on your farm helps to build a better picture of how this species is faring (Susan H. Wilson).

Last year represented a record-breaking count, with 1,400 people taking part – a 40% increase on the previous year. In total, 140 species were recorded over 1 million acres.

Encouragingly, some 30 Red-listed species were recorded in 2019, with five appearing in the most commonly seen species list. These included Song Thrush, Yellowhammer and House Sparrow, with the latter two seen on more than 30% of the farms taking part.

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by land managers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds. The count offers a simple means of recording the effects of any conservation work currently being undertaken by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as supplementary feeding of birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.

The NFU is sponsoring the count for the second year running and President Minette Batters commented: "The NFU is extremely pleased to be once again sponsoring the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count – an event that highlights perfectly how farmers balance excellent conservation work on farms across the country alongside producing the nation's food.

"Farmers carry out a huge amount of work to maintain and enrich habitats and wildlife and are responsible for protecting, maintaining and enhancing 71% of the nation's iconic countryside.

"I would encourage all farmers to take part in the February count and submit records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of nation when it comes to farmland birds."

The humble House Sparrow was registered by 30% of partaking farms in 2019 (Carl Bovis).

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.

How to take part in three simple steps:

  1. Download a count sheet from the BFBC website at www.bfbc.org.uk.
  2. Count your birds! On a day between 7 and 16 February, spend 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.
  3. Once you've completed your count, simply submit your results at www.bfbc.org.uk.