Farmers are being urged to count birds on their land to show the impact agri-environment schemes are having on bird species and numbers.
The fourth annual Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) bird count is taking place from 3 to 12 February.
This year, organisers the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) are making it easier for farmers to submit and keep track of their sightings through a new online recording tool.
To take part, download and print off a count sheet and spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm.
Then record your count using the online tool, which will also enable you to plot trends and compare your farm with others in your region. For more information visit www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc
Last year 130 different species were recorded, from fieldfare, which migrate from Scandinavia, and long-time resident, the yellowhammer.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith will be recording birds on his farm at St Osyth in north-east Essex.
“I always choose a different spot on my own farm to see what species are attracted by certain locations,” he said.
“In 2015 it was the middle of the marsh, so it was dominated by species such as lapwing, golden plover and brent geese.
“For last year’s BFBC I stood in the field adjacent to my house with an elm hedge on one side and hawthorn on the other.
“This year it will be between 10ha of wheat and 10ha of overwintered stubble.”
He encouraged as many farmers as possible to take part amid debate about the future of agricultural policy post Brexit with many green groups questioning the farming community’s commitment to conservation.
“The BFBC is a great opportunity to show we are fully engaged and to remind people of the great work we do such as planting new hedges and sowing wildlife margins – as well as enjoying the results.”