Despite 2014 being the wettest winter since records began in 1910, more than 500 people, who manage nearly half-million acres of UK farmland put on their wellington boots, grabbed their binoculars and took part in this hugely successful first count of farmland birds this year.
Jim Egan from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust said, “Our Big Farmland Bird Count was a remarkable achievement. Farmers who participated in our count recorded over 116 different species of birds – many of which are on the red-list of birds of conservation concern such as starlings, lapwing, and tree sparrow. Farmers certainly demonstrated how much they care about their wonderful farmland birds by getting involved in our count. It also showed that even some of our most rapidly declining bird species are out there and being supported by the many conservation measures that are being implemented on UK farmland.”
As an added incentive for those wishing to take part in the 2015 count, the GWCT is organising a series of 10 free farmland bird identification days in January 2015. Taking place across the UK, the free ID days are designed to help farmers and gamekeepers improve their identification skills ahead of the count. Each session will last for approximately two and half hours and at the end of the training participants should be able to recognise the top 24 birds likely to be seen on farmland this coming winter.
Jim Egan said, “We would like people to register their interest in attending these ID days as soon as possible as we anticipate that many farmers and other interested people will want to receive expert training to improve their bird identification skills ready for the count. We are also producing a simple downloadable ID guide which will be available on our website too.”
The ID days are being generously sponsored by BASF and will be delivered by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust as well as local experts from the RSPB, LEAF*, FWAG* and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE).
The GWCT believes that the efforts being made by farmers to reverse bird declines frequently go unrecognised despite them being vital in safeguarding the future of many of our most cherished bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges. Jim Egan explains, “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’s Big Farmland Bird Count has captured the imagination of all those interested in the future of farmland birds. Sponsored by BASF, the count is run in partnership with the FWAG Association and LEAF and receives grateful support from a wide range of farming and industry organisations such as Kings, Waitrose, NFU, RSPB, Soil Association, CFE, CLA, Heather Trust, Conservation Grade, Countryside Alliance, as well as local and national media.
To register interest in attending the Free Bird Identification Days being held in 10 locations across the country, please visit: www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC