Big Farmland Bird Count reveals most abundant countryside species

PUBLISHED: 07:48 06 April 2018 | UPDATED: 07:48 06 April 2018

Fieldfare. Picture: iwitness24 / Trevor Tabenham

Fieldfare. Picture: iwitness24 / Trevor Tabenham

(c) copyright

Suffolk and Norfolk were among the top contributors as a record-breaking number of farmers took part in the fifth annual Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC).

Yellowhammer. Picture: iwitness24 / Peter DentYellowhammer. Picture: iwitness24 / Peter Dent

More than 1,000 farmers recorded 121 species across 950,000 acres of land during the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT’s) annual count, which took place between 9 and 18 February.

The five most abundant birds spotted were starlings, woodpigeons, fieldfares, rooks and chaffinches – which accounted for nearly half of the total number of birds recorded.

A total of 19 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded, with five appearing on the list of the 25 most commonly seen species: fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on almost 40pc of the farms taking part.

Farmers from every county in England volunteered to carry out the count. Suffolk had the most returns, with 67 farmers completing the survey, followed by Yorkshire with 63 and Norfolk with 54.

A starling murmuration over Minsmere. Picture: iwitness24 / Alan SkinnerA starling murmuration over Minsmere. Picture: iwitness24 / Alan Skinner

BFBC organiser Jim Egan said he was “delighted” with the efforts of farmers taking part.

“We can also see from the data collated that 50pc of farmers have been helping farmland birds in the recent cold snap,” he added. “This is critical in getting farmland birds, particularly those on the red list, through the winter so they are fit and healthy to breed in the spring.

“It’s great to know that many farmers will also now be providing insect-rich habitat to help provide for breeding birds through the spring and summer months.”

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland bird numbers.

Starling. Picture: iwitness24 / Dudley RacherStarling. Picture: iwitness24 / Dudley Racher

More than half (53pc) of participants are in some form of agri-environment scheme, and 41pc were providing some form of extra seed feed for birds, either through growing wild bird seed mixes, or by providing additional grain through supplementary feeding.

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 overwintered stubbles.

National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters said: “The event highlights how farmers balance food production and the excellent conservation work being undertaken on farms across the country.”

For full results, see the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust website.

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