Record numbers take part in Big Farmland Bird Count


The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust's (GWCT) Big Farmland Bird Count saw record participation when it took place this February.

A total of 2,500 counts were submitted for the 2021 event, representing a 65% increase on the figures for 2020.

This means that the Count, which ran from 5-21 February, covered more than a million hectares, with an 81% increase in the total number of individual birds logged.

The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count asks land managers to spend 30 minutes recording the bird species they see on their land as part of an annual nationwide survey, which helps to identify any species that are struggling.

The count is a simple way for farmers and gamekeepers to assess the natural capital on farm, an increasing requirement under the government's Environmental Land Management scheme, and to chart the effects of any conservation they carry out. Completing it year after year can help to establish the biodiversity gains from long-term conservation efforts. The scheme was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds.

Fieldfare was among the top five most frequently seen species on this year's Big Farmland Bird Count (Ian Bollen).

GWCT's Dr Roger Draycott, who organised the count, said: "We could not be more delighted with the response to this year's GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. Despite much of the country being blanketed in snow during the count participation has shot up.

"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. 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 treasured bird species.

"We would like to thank everyone who took part for demonstrating that land managers can lead the way in protecting our countryside alongside effective food production."

The four most abundant Red-listed species recorded across the Count were Common Starling, Common Linnet, Fieldfare and Northern Lapwing. The overall five most abundant species were Woodpigeon, Common Starling, Rook, Fieldfare and Chaffinch.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has sponsored the count for the last three years. NFU President Minette Batters said: "These results are tremendous and I would like to thank all those farmers who responded to this year's count in record numbers, despite the wintry weather back in February. It's great too that so many different threatened species were spotted such as lapwing and linnet.

"British farmers are proud to produce your food, and it is often unappreciated that they also provide habitats for wildlife and additional feeding for farmland birds during the winter months. The Big Farmland Bird Count is always a fantastic way for farmers to record the birdlife found on their farms and why I am really pleased that the NFU could sponsor this year's count once again."

Find out more at www.bfbc.org.uk.