Norfolk leads in big farmland bird count

Saturday, April 19, 2014
12:00 PM

Norfolk returned the highest number of returns for the first “Big Farmland Bird Count” organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.

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More than 500 farmers with almost half a million acres took part in the count, which was held in the first week of February.

A total of 116 bird species and six red-listed data species were in the top 25 of birds counted.

Norfolk’s 32 returns, covered more than 50,000 acres with an average farm size of 1,620 acres or 655 hectares. It topped the league table ahead of Yorkshire and Hampshire. Cambridgeshire and Suffolk were fourth and fifth highest. Species seen in Norfolk also included bittern.

Jim Egan, of the GWCT’s Allerton Project, said, “This was a remarkable result both in terms of the range of species counted as well as the number of red-listed species appearing within the top 25. These are some of our most rapidly declining species but they are still out there and are being supported by our farmers through the many conservation measures that are now being implemented on farmland across the country.”

Every county in England and every region in Britain was represented in what the trust described as “a fantastic first year for a very ambitious farmer-led survey.”

The most common species recorded was the starling, which was seen on more than 40pc of the farms taking part. It was also the most abundant bird recorded.

Mr Egan, added: “Within the survey 60pc of farmers were providing food specifically for their birds and this is one of the conservation measures which is helping the birds thrive and stay alive on these farms over winter.”

Farmers counted 12 different species of raptor, as well as rarer species such as great grey shrike, twite and firecrest. Woodpigeon, blackbird, carrion crow, pheasant and chaffinch were seen by over 70pc of the farmers taking part.

Over-winter feeding, either by providing supplementary food in feeders or through planting wild bird seed mixes proved to be fruitful counting sites for many farmers and enabled them to record impressive numbers of yellowhammer and corn bunting as well as many other seed eating birds, he added.

Mr Egan said that many of the “green” measures now being implemented by the farming community, such as providing supplementary over-winter food, originates directly from research carried out by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust on its Allerton Project Farm in Leicestershire over 21 years.

The second Big Farmland Bird Count will take place during the week of February 7 to 15.

To register an interest - www.gwct.org.uk/BFBC

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