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Survey reveals Norfolk’s five most abundant farmland birds

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 19:30 27 March 2019

Pheasants were among the most commonly-seen birds in Norfolk in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Frances Crickmore / iwitness24

Pheasants were among the most commonly-seen birds in Norfolk in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Frances Crickmore / iwitness24

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Norfolk was the top-performing county in a national survey of farmland birds which revealed our most abundant species.

Chaffinches were among the most commonly-seen birds in Norfolk in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Christopher Flatt / iwitness24Chaffinches were among the most commonly-seen birds in Norfolk in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Christopher Flatt / iwitness24

The 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) involved around 1,400 farmers, gamekeepers and land managers – a 40pc increase on last year – who recorded a total of 140 species over one million acres between February 8 and 17.

Norfolk was by far the leading county in the survey with 145 participants, followed by Suffolk with 92, and Herefordshire with 63.

Farmers and landowners in Norfolk recorded 116 species across 111,477 acres, with the most commonly-seen being woodpigeon, blackbird, chaffinch, pheasant, and blue tit.

Jim Egan, who co-ordinates the count for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), said: “It’s brilliant to see an increase in the number of participants.

Lapwings were one of the UK's five most abundant birds seen in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Anne Marks / iwitness24Lapwings were one of the UK's five most abundant birds seen in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Anne Marks / iwitness24

“I’m particularly pleased by the way the facilitation funds and farmer clusters have worked together to embrace this across a landscape scale.

“The fact that in, many cases, farmers and birders have worked together and inspired each other shows the power of sharing our skills and knowledge. A huge congratulations to everyone involved.”

Nationally, a total of 30 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the “most commonly-seen species” list. These included fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, yellowhammers and song thrushes, with the first four seen by more than 30pc of the farms taking part.

The five most abundant birds seen across the country were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks. A total of 148,661 were found, making up almost half of the total number of birds recorded.

Yellowhammers were among the Red List species spotted in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Peter Dent / iwitness24Yellowhammers were among the Red List species spotted in the 2019 Big Farmland Bird Count. Picture: Peter Dent / iwitness24

Farms of all types and sizes took part, and the survey areas included important environmental features such as hedges, woodland ponds, grass margins, ditches and trees.

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

Mike Edwards, business manager at Norfolk FWAG (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) said: “I’m really pleased to see the contribution that Norfolk farmers have made to this year’s count, and it provides a reminder of the important habitats and wildlife networks that farmers and landowners are managing.

“A significant number of farmers across the county will have been providing large wild bird feeding areas comprised of sown plots of small seed bearing plants such as triticale, quinoa and fodder raddish to keep our farmland birds going over the winter.

“Some will also have been spreading bird seed along remote farm tracks every few days for our wild bird species such as yellowhammer and chaffinch.”

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, the main sponsor of this year’s count, said: “It is often unappreciated that many farmers provide habitats and additional feeding for birds during the winter months. The Big Farmland Bird Count is a fantastic way for farmers to record the birdlife found on their farms.”

• To view the full results, see the Big Farmland Bird Count website.


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