The GWCT’s third Big Farmland Bird Count took place between 6 and 14 February 2016, with record numbers of participants and species recorded.
Over 970 farmers took part and recorded 130 species across around 900,000 acres. That’s more farmers than in previous years and the highest number of different species counted since the BFBC began.
What did farmers see?
The most commonly seen species were blackbirds and woodpigeons, seen by over 80% of our participants. Robins, blue tits, pheasants, carrion crows and chaffinches were seen by over 70% of the farmers. The table below shows the full list of the 25 most commonly seen species.
At the other end of the scale, we were delighted to see that a total of 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded, with 5 appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list: fieldfares, house sparrows, starlings, yellowhammers and song thrushes. The most abundant of these were the first three, which were seen on over 35% of the farms taking part.
In addition, seven species were recorded for the first time during the BFBC, including a snow bunting.
The table below shows the actual number of each of the top 25 species seen:
The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, rooks, fieldfares and lapwings. A total of 91,513 were found, making up 40% of the total number of birds recorded.
It is interesting to note that this top five list is almost the same as for the 2014 and 2015 counts. The only difference for this year is that lapwings have appeared, pushing chaffinches down to sixth place.
As with last year, seven of the top 25 most abundant species are on the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern: linnets, yellowhammers, house sparrows, starlings, lapwings, fieldfares and redwings.
Who took part?
The type of farms taking part reflected the full range farm businesses we had hoped to see.
The average farm size of those taking part was 922 acres, with over 60% growing arable crops, over 50% having beef or sheep and more than 10% growing field vegetables. There were also a number of dairy farms, horticulture units, poultry producers and pig producers submitting counts. We are really pleased to get such a variety of interest.
Over 60% of participants are in some form of agri-environment scheme, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management.
Over 50% of participants were providing some form of extra seed feed for birds, either through growing wild bird seed mixes, or by providing additional grain through scatter feeding or via hoppers.
Where were they from?
Farmers from every county in England took part and there were also responses from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We even had participants in Austria and Germany.
Yorkshire had the most returns, with 67 farmers completing the survey. This was closely followed by Herefordshire with 66, Norfolk with 54, and Suffolk with 43.
Our thanks go out to these counties for their huge support.
Where did they count?
The survey areas included important environmental features such as hedges, woodland ponds, grass margins, ditches and trees.
Most survey sites were next to winter cereals, grassland or over wintered stubbles. The features recorded are a good demonstration of the variety of habitats present in farmland across the UK. This is shown in the table below:
Following the success of last year’s Farmland Bird ID days, this year we ran a total of 17 across the UK during January and February. Nearly 300 people attended these ID days designed to give them the confidence to recognise the top 20 bird species they were likely to see on their land during the count. Expert tuition for these events was provided by GWCT Advisory staff, The FWAG Association, the RSPB and Natural England.
We also produced a great ID Guide which was done in partnership with the RSPB and can be downloaded here.
Planning for the fourth BFBC is already underway. It will take place during February 2017 and we are planning even more ID days ahead of the event. We hope to encourage over 1,000 participants from even further afield.
We would like to thank everyone who took part in the count and submitted their results. Without their support, the BFBC wouldn’t be the success it is.