The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has just announced the results of its second Big Farmland Bird Count, which took place across the country last winter.
Although this was only the second year of the count, nearly one thousand farmers, gamekeepers and land managers looking after nearly one million acres of farmland spent 30 minutes during the week long survey to count their birds.
Jim Egan, said “We are delighted to have received so much support. Double the number of people turned out this winter and between them they recorded more than 127 different species on their farms and estates. This was a remarkable achievement, particularly as they monitored an additional 11 species compared to 2014.”
In the national count, the five most common birds seen on farms this winter were blackbird, seen by nearly 90 per cent of people, followed by robin (80 per cent), blue tit (79 per cent), chaffinch (75 per cent) and carrion crow seen by over 70 per cent of those taking part.
A total of 19 red list species of conservation concern were also recorded with six appearing in the list of 25 most commonly seen species. Starlings and fieldfare were seen on over 40 per cent of the farms taking part and were the most abundant red-listed species recorded followed by linnet, yellowhammer, house sparrow, lapwing and redwing.
In the South Downs, farmers recorded seeing 15 red-list species with song thrush being the most abundant bird seen on farms followed by house sparrow, skylark and yellowhammer.
Song thrushes were the most common red listed species seen on the South Downs during the BFBC (c. Chris Gomersall rspb-images.com)
Jim Egan explains the results, “Even though this is only its second year, we are seeing an increase in the number of birds and the range of species seen. The red list species are some of our most rapidly declining birds but they are still out there and are being supported by our farmers through the many conservation measures now being implemented on UK farmland.”
The third GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count will take place during the week of 6th – 14th February 2016 with more bird Identification days also being arranged across the country in January. Jim Egan comments, “We very much hope that even more farmers will get involved in the count next year. This knowledge is important as it will help farmers to start building a long-term picture of how their over-wintering birds are faring as well as showing them what their conservation efforts are achieving on the ground.”
This summer, the GWCT is keen to run a pilot in the South Downs that will put birding experts in touch with local farmers. Jim Egan explains, “It is not always easy identifying the farmland birds on your land – especially those ‘little brown jobs’. In preparation for the 2016 Big Farmland Bird Count, we think it would be really helpful if local birding experts joined forces with their local farmers this summer to help them recognise the birds on their land. Hopefully, they will then continue this partnership to count their birds next winter when the GWCT’s 2016 Big Farmland Bird Count takes place.” For more information, please visit: gwct.org.uk/BFBC.