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Farmers urged to dig out their binoculars for 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count

PUBLISHED: 12:04 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:24 06 February 2019

The 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count will begin on February 8. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count will begin on February 8. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2015

Farmers across East Anglia are being urged to take their binoculars out into the countryside this week to play their part in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count.

Yellowhammers were one of five Red List species which made the list of 25 most commonly seen birds in the 2018 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Peter Dent / IWitnessYellowhammers were one of five Red List species which made the list of 25 most commonly seen birds in the 2018 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Peter Dent / IWitness

The nationwide “citizen science” project calls on farmers, land managers and gamekeepers to spend 30 minutes recording bird species on their land between February 8 and 17.

Results from the annual count, run by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), will aim to distinguish which farmland birds are thriving due to good conservation efforts, while identifying the species in need of most help.

Norfolk FWAG, the county’s Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, has been providing bird identification tips to farmers within the Wensum and Wissey farm clusters and also at Farm Business Update events.

Business manager Mike Edwards said: “Farmers across the county have been establishing wild bird seed plots and other features for farmland birds for many years, this is the time for farmers to get out there and see what birds are using those areas and record the positive impact that their hard work is having.

“This work has been very important in the survival of many farmland bird species and is something that the farming community should be telling the wider community about.”

The count itself imply requires a recording sheet and farmland bird identification guide and participants can choose their own location – although somewhere with a good view of around two hectares of farmland is recommended.

Mr Edwards added: “Over the last few weeks we have seen good flocks of siskin around areas of wet woodland, redwings and field fare on cover crops, and heard drumming greater spotted woodpeckers.”

READ MORE: 2018 Big Farmland Bird Count reveals most abundant countryside species

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, which is sponsoring the 2019 count, said: “This event highlights perfectly how farmers balance excellent conservation work on farms across the country alongside producing the nation’s food.

“Over the past four decades, farmers have carried out a huge amount of work to encourage wildlife and are responsible for protecting, maintaining and enhancing 70pc of the nation’s iconic countryside.

“I would encourage as many farmers as possible to participate during the event in February as this is crucial in the survival and protection of many farmland bird species.”

• To take part, download bird identification guides and count sheets from the Big Farmland Bird Count website.

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