The launch of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count got off to a remarkable start this week, when all the GWCT’s key partner organisations plus local farmers spent the day on the GWCT’s first of ten country-wide bird identification days on the award winning LEAF demonstration farm of Patrick Barker in Suffolk.

Graham Hartwell from BASF, the Big Farmland Bird Count’s main sponsor together with Sir James Paice MP joined forces with Guy Smith, Vice President of the NFU; Tim Breitmeyer, Vice President of CLA, and Joe Martin, FWAG Association chair, to receive professional bird identification training from Peter Thompson, the GWCT’s birding expert as well as experiencing a bird ringing demonstration from the Waveney Bird Club Ringers.

Guy Smith from the NFU, is a huge enthusiast of the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count and said: “I often hear farmers grumble that while they are quietly proud of how much wildlife they have on their farms they get fed up with reports that modern farming is bad for birds. I can understand the frustration but to my mind the answer is, don’t just be proud – be loud. So, come next February get the binoculars out, dust off the note pad, sharpen the pencil and get recording as you go out and about on the farm; then post your results to GWCT. We’re always interested in how many tonnes of wheat we can get to the hectare, now let’s systematically record how many bird species we can achieve per farm.”

Patrick, David and Brian Barker, who participated in the first Big Farmland Bird Count and run a 1,260 farm near Stowmarket hosted the ID day for the GWCT. Patrick said, “Collecting data on the species that thrive on our farm is crucial as it helps us to target wildlife conservation as well as helping to highlight our successes. The Big Farmland Bird Count really helps to demonstrate these positive efforts made by farmers across the country.”

The 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count will take place between 7th and 15th February, with 10 bird identification training days being held across the country including Scotland in January.

In a vote of thanks at the end of the day, CLA Vice-President Tim Breitmeyer said, “We are delighted that the GWCT has initiated this important count scheme and through the ID days are helping people to recognise the birds on their land. I would urge CLA members to get involved and take part. As we have seen today, having good data and knowledge is vital so that we can more accurately target farmland bird recovery as well as appreciating how the efforts of our members are really making a difference.”

The ID days, which last for 2 ½ hours will be run by expert birders including RSPB, LEAF, FWAG and GWCT. As places will be limited, people need to book in advance online at A free bird identification guide will be available on the ID days as well as being available on the GWCT website. Illustrations for the guide have been kindly provided by the RSPB.

To take part in the actual count farmers need to just spend half an hour in a specific part of the farm, and complete a special count form which can be downloaded from the GWCT’s website at:

The 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count is being run in partnership with LEAF and the FWAG Association and together with the ID days is generously sponsored by industry partner BASF.

Graham Hartwell, BASF’s environmental stewardship manager, who attended the ID day, commented, “BASF are delighted to support the GWCT and the 2015 count. It is a fantastic opportunity to show how modern farming can support a vibrant and healthy countryside by applying simple targeted methods. Today was an inspiration and the GWCT’s ID day brought additional insight into what can be achieved to help wildlife. I would urge everyone involved in managing our countryside to take part in the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count.”