This important initiative offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation schemes currently being initiated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land such as supplementary feeding or growing wild bird seed crops and game cover crops.
It is also a useful way of gaining personal insight on how well their birds are faring.
Watch Farmer Tom Martin explain why he’s counting:
Jim Egan, Technical Advisor a Kings Crops and former Head of Development and Training at our Allerton Project explains why conducting the count is so important:
“Farmers and gamekeepers are vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges. They are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land but frequently their efforts to reverse bird declines are largely unrecorded. We believe our Big Farmland Bird Count will help remedy this, particularly as our earlier pilot count showed such encouraging results. ”
“Over the last 30 years researchers at our Allerton Project farm in Leicestershire have gained a great understanding of the needs of farmland game and wildlife. Their work has demonstrated the combined benefits of habitat management, winter feeding for birds and targeted legal predator control in the breeding season. We have also come to understand the benefits that can be gained from long term monitoring of bird numbers in order to identify trends in wildlife populations.”
“We understand the crucial role that farmers and gamekeepers play in the survival of farmland birds and we want to give them an opportunity of showing what their conservation efforts deliver on the ground. It is also a satisfying way for people to discover the different range of birds that are on the farm and the results can be surprising. We hope it will spur people on to do even more work for their farmland birds in the future and will act as a catalyst for them to start building their own long standing wildlife records. ”
Rob Shepherd, lead farmer on Martin Down Supercluster:
“A key ingredient of the Farmer Clusters is the collection of species data across our landscapes. The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count adds to our understanding of the progress that our ‘bottom up’ conservation approach is achieving.”
Sarah Righton, Old Farm, Dorn, near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire:
“In 2011 we were involved in a survey with the RSPB, at this point there were around 30 species on the Red List and we recorded 6 on the farm. We have a 300 acre mixed farm, livestock and arable, small fields, mature hedges, pond areas and Simon plants wild bird cover crops in the spring to provide food for the birds over winter. We know we have plenty of birds around but I guess unless we sit down and take note of them we don’t know which ones. Taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count is a great opportunity to get involved on a national scale, there are now 70 birds on the red list and 103 on the amber list so the more people who get involved the better – we can see if what we have been doing over the last 11 years has made a difference and it will give us a starting point for planning what we can do in the future.”
Teyl de Bordes, Whitmuir Estate factor, Selkirk, Scottish Borders:
“We will be taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count once again. We have done so since year one. We find it helps us gather data on the effect of over 20 years winter feeding of small farmland birds like the large mixed finch flocks. We have never had two counts with almost the same range of species seen. This shows the effect of the weather at the time. We tend to have more birds during snow events. We normally invite a different person to do the count each year. This helps us involve local birders in the work we do. The more farms take part the more valuable the data is.”
Watch Yorkshire farmer Richard Bramley describes his passion for farmland birds including his favourite, the yellow wagtail: