Robin credit.Will George

GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count helps Hampshire land managers measure conservation success

GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count, 5 – 14 February 2021bfbc.org.uk

At a time when farming and countryside management do not always get positive headlines, the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count (5 – 14 February 2021) highlights the efforts many British land managers put in to supporting wildlife on their land. The count, run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is a voluntary scheme that helps farmers and gamekeepers health-check their land and allows the GWCT to build a crucial national snapshot of the state of Britain’s farmland birds.

I really enjoy doing the Big Farmland Bird Count each year. It is a good break from the rigours of day-to-day commercial farming and shows how beneficial the work that so many farming colleagues do to manage the countryside and its flora and fauna, said Tim Walters from Old Alresford in Hampshire, who regularly takes part in the count.

Over two weeks in February, over a thousand of farmers, land managers and gamekeepers across the UK will be giving up 30 minutes of their own time, in a spot on their own land, to record the farmland birds they see, as part of the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. For many land managers this is the culmination of conservation work they carry out throughout the year, in all weathers. From planting trees and hedgerows to sowing winter bird seed plots or providing supplementary feed, conservation carried out by farmers and gamekeepers often goes unrecognised. Counting the birds on their land and comparing the results to their previous year’s data allows count participants to see the effects of their efforts. By submitting their results to the GWCT, scientists can analyse which species are benefitting nationally and which are in need of help.

Farm manager Tim Walters continued:

We have been taking part in various agri-environment schemes for many years, including planting winter bird seed plots. We saw the Big Farmland Bird Count as a way of measuring the impact of this work.

Dr Roger Draycott, organiser and head of advisory services at the GWCT, explains the vital role that land managers play in conserving British wildlife:

As custodians of 71% of Britain’s countryside, farmers, land managers and gamekeepers are crucial to the survival of cherished bird species like skylarks, yellowhammers, corn buntings and wild grey partridge.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is sponsoring the Big Farmland Bird Count for the third year running, demonstrating the farming community’s commitment to conserving our native bird species.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and poor weather, 2020’s Big Farmland Bird Count saw record numbers of people taking part: over 1500 participants recorded more than 120 species across 1.4 million acres.

We saw a huge increase in the number of counts completed last year and we are hoping to beat those numbers again. It is not too late to sign up for this year’s count by visiting www.bfbc.org.uk, says Roger.

Encouragingly, 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded in 2020, with nine of them appearing in the 25 most commonly seen list and nine in the most abundant species list, including fieldfares, starlings, linnets and lapwings. Blackbirds and woodpigeons were the most seen species in 2020, followed by robins, blue tits and pheasants.

The GWCT would like to thank the NFU and all our partners for actively promoting the count to their members and supporters.

How to take part in the Big Farmland Bird Count:

As most participants count alone or with family members, outside, the Big Farmland Bird Count can be safely carried out within Covid-secure guidelines. Species guides, including short videos, are available at www.bfbc.org.uk.

1)   Download your count sheet from the BFBC website www.bfbc.org.uk

2)   Count your birds! On a day between 5 and 14 February, spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.

3)   Once you’ve completed your count, simply submit your results at www.bfbc.org.uk

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the GWCT. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

Photo: Robin Credit Will George


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