Value of Big Farmland Bird Count is underestimated

Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) squabbling near seed feeder in garden,Berwickshire, Scotland, April''SINGLE USE ONLY to accompany Scottish Wildlife Trust
Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) squabbling near seed feeder in garden,Berwickshire, Scotland, April''SINGLE USE ONLY to accompany Scottish Wildlife Trust

A murder of crows, a charm of goldfinch, a wisp of snipe, a covey of partridge are some of the collective nouns for many of the bird species that will be counted during the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count.

More than 1,400 farmers across the country have now registered to take part in the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) second Big Farmland Bird Count, which will take place between February 7-15.

Jim Egan, from the GWCT said: “We are thrilled that so many farmers are keen to take part in this ambitious survey. It is often underestimated how much good conservation work is being carried out on UK farmland to help our threatened bird species.

“The Big Farmland Bird Count is an excellent way for farmers to demonstrate the wide range of conservation management that is now taking place on UK farmland for the benefit of many declining bird species such as starling, grey partridge and yellowhammer.”

February is one of the leanest times of year for farmland birds because there is very little spilt grain or berries left for hungry birds to feed on to help them survive. However, last year’s Big Farmland Bird Count revealed that more than 60 per cent of farmers taking part in the survey were providing huge amounts of additional food either by wild seed mixes, hopper feeding or by scattering grain on the ground.

Jim Egan explains the reasons behind the survey: “Although a lot of conservation work is being carried out behind the scenes, it is crucial that farmers understand how these vital ‘greening’ measures are helping some of our most rapidly declining birds and importantly, what species are benefiting from these measures.

“Having a better understanding of what is working well is hugely important as it will help farmers to target their work for farmland bird recovery more accurately.”

During the count farmers and gamekeepersare invited to spend half an hour recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm.

Once the sightings have been recorded they should be emailed or posted to the GWCT at www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc.

In addition to running the Big Farmland Bird Count, the GWCT has been organising a series of Farmland Bird Identification Days across the country.

These fascinating Bird ID days, led by local birding experts, were aimed at helping p farmers and gamekeepers recognise the birds in their area, especially those hard to identify species that are known as ‘little brown jobs’.

For those interested in taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count, between February 7-15, the GWCT is providing a simple tick sheet that can be downloaded from the GWCT’s website and taken into the field to record any bird sightings.

Participants will then be able to send the results either via a dedicated web page or through the post.

The results of the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count will be announced in early spring.

To download count forms, please visit: www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC or telephone: 01425 651000.