All aboard for the second Big Farmland Bird Count

Farmers are being urged to become twitchers for one week to help assess how farmland bird numbers are faring.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has announced the second annual Big Farmland Bird Count will take place from 7 to 15 February 2015.

The charity is asking farmers, landowners, birdwatchers and gamekeepers to spend 30 minutes recording bird species and the number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm this winter.

Ahead of the count, the GWCT is organising a series of 10 farmland bird identification days in January.  

See also: Farmland bird count records 116 species

The ID days, which will be held at farms across England and Scotland, are designed to help farmers improve their bird identification skills.

At the end of the sessions, farmers should be able to recognise the top 24 birds likely to be seen on farmland this winter.

Dates for the GWCT Bird Identification Days

  • Bucks – 13 January, Tingewick Bucks (Event delivered by Peter Thompson, GWCT)
  • Cumbria – 15 January, Calthwaite, Penrith (delivered by Paul Arkel/Suemus Eaves, FWAG)
  • Norfolk – 21 January, Downham Market (delivered by Heidi Thomson/Henry Walker, FWAG)
  • Warwicks – 22 January, Southam, Warwicks (delivered by Bob Slater/Matt Wilmott, Natural England)
  • Hampshire – 26 January, East Tisted, Nr Alton, Hampshire (delivered by Peter Thompson, GWCT)
  • Somerset – 26 January, Curry Rivel, Langport (delivered by Gary Rumbold, FWAG)
  • Scotland – 27 January, Midlothian, Scotland (delivered by Dr Dave Parish, GWCT)
  • East Yorkshire – 28 January, Rawclifffe Bridge, Goole (delivered by Chris Thomson, RSPB)
  • Nottinghamshire – 30 January, Linby, Notts (delivered by Lesley Sharpe)

Last February, despite the wettest winter on record 500 farmers put on their wellies, grabbed their binoculars and took part in the first count.

Across half a million acres of UK farmland, they counted 116 different species – many of which are on the red-list of birds of conservation concern, such as starlings, lapwing and tree sparrow.

The GWCT believes farmers’ efforts to reverse bird declines frequently go unrecognised despite them being vital in safeguarding the future of many of our most cherished bird species, including skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges.

Jim Egan, from GWCT’s Allerton Project, said: “Our Big Farmland Bird Count helps to remedy this as it showcases some of the remarkable conservation efforts being carried out by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers.

“It is also a useful way to measure how birds are faring on our farms across the country. We hope that even more people will register to join the BFBC in 2015 to make it even more successful.”

The GWCT is producing a downloadable ID guide with bird illustrations provided by the RSPB to hand to farmers on the ID days. It will also be available to download on its website too (www.gwct.org.uk).

To register interest in attending the Bird Identification Days or to download count forms, visit: www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC or telephone 01425 651 000.

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