Big Farmland Bird Count heralded a success

The skylark is amongst the Red List species reported in Northumberland
The skylark is amongst the Red List species reported in Northumberland
11 April 2017 4:02PM

JUST under 1,000 farmers nationwide took part in this year’s Big Farmland Bird Count, providing an insight into how species are faring in our countryside.

A total of 112 species were counted across the UK, including 22 Red List species, which organisers the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust says illustrates the strength of farmers’ conservation efforts.

Fieldfare, starling, house sparrow, song thrush and yellowhammer were all counted in the top 25 and appear in the Birds of Conservation Concern, commonly known as the Red List for Birds.

The most abundant of these, fieldfares and starlings, were seen on more than 40 per cent of the farms taking part.

For the third year, the top four most abundant species were woodpigeon, starling, rook and fieldfare, with chaffinch coming in fifth.

In the North-East, 55 species were recorded by the farmers who participated across more than 5,000 hectares.

The most commonly seen in our neck of the woods was the jackdaw, followed by pheasant, blackbird, crow and chaffinch. In addition, 14 Red List species were recorded in the county, including tree sparrow, yellowhammer and skylark.

Head of development at the GWCT Jim Egan said: “I am delighted that so many birds have been recorded in our fourth Big Farmland Bird Count. This is an opportunity for farmers to see the results of all their hard work.

“For the first time, those taking part in the count have been able to submit their results online and it’s made a huge difference to us in terms of accuracy and analysing the data,” he added.

“In addition to this, the new system allowed farmers to access information sheets about things they can do to help the bird species they recorded.”

Farmers from every county in England took part and there were responses from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Suffolk had the most returns, followed by Norfolk and Herefordshire.

The types of farms taking part reflected the full range of farm businesses, with 65 per cent growing arable crops, 49 per cent having beef or sheep, and 14 per cent growing field vegetables.

Nearly 60 per cent were in some form of agri-environment scheme, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management.

Simple measures, such as providing nest boxes for tree sparrows, extending grass margins for yellowhammers and spring cropping for skylarks, can all help birds thrive on farmland, says the GWCT.

Sponsored by BASF, the count is run in partnership with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Groups Association, Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), the NFU and the CLA.

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