The Hampshire based Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is laying on the workshops before the fifth big farmland bird count (BFBC).

The workshops will be run across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to provide advice on birds that can be tricky to differentiate such as a Dunnock from a tree sparrow.

Each workshop will be run by a farmland bird expert alongside a host farmer and, at the end of the day, the GWCT says participants will feel more confident in spotting the top 20 bird species likely to be seen on farmland over winter. These include some of the most iconic birds of the British countryside such as the barn owl, bullfinch, lapwing, grey partridge, tree sparrow and yellowhammer.

Jim Egan, founder of the BFBC and head of training and development at the GWCT’s Allerton Project in Loddington, says the identification days are invaluable preparation for the count itself.

“The days are set up across the country to provide lots of information on how to identify certain birds and what farmers can do in the future to preserve them,” Mr Egan said.

“I would say to anyone thinking about taking part – do it. Get out and enjoy the birds on your farm and give us the opportunity to shout about the great work you’re doing.”

GWCT biodiversity officer, Peter Thompson, said: “It is vital that farmers and keepers start to consider the long game by demonstrating more effectively what they are achieving.”

A colour identification guide is provided to those who attend, with a focus on birds which are harder to identify. The first identification day takes place on 17 January and they run for three weeks up until the start of the count which this year runs from Friday 9 February to Sunday 18 February. There are just 25 places available for each day, costing £10 per person which includes refreshments.

In the South East region, the venues and dates for the workshops are: 17 January, Essex workshop between 10am and 1.30pm at H P Cooper Farms Ltd, Hill Farm, Gestingthorpe,CO9 3BL; 5 February, Hampshire workshop between 10.45am and 3pm at Victoria Hall, Sutton Scotney, SO21 3GX; and 7 February, West Sussex workshop between 10.45am and 3pm at The Downs Barn, Sompting Estate, Sompting, BN14 9JX.