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Which bird species are thriving or struggling on Norfolk farmland?

PUBLISHED: 09:11 30 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:34 30 January 2020

Farmers and wildlife enthusiasts are being urged to join the 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count. Pictured: The chaffinch was one of Norfolk's most abundant birds in last year's count. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Farmers and wildlife enthusiasts are being urged to join the 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count. Pictured: The chaffinch was one of Norfolk's most abundant birds in last year's count. Picture: Matthew Usher.

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Farmers and wildlife enthusiasts are being urged to join an annual survey to identify which farmland birds are benefiting from conservation efforts – and which ones are most in need of help.

The Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) is a nationwide "citizen science" project which calls on land managers and gamekeepers to spend 30 minutes spotting species on their patch of land between February 7 and 16.

Norfolk was the leading county in last year's survey with 145 participants recording 116 species across 111,477 acres of land. The county's most commonly-seen birds in 2019 were woodpigeon, blackbird, chaffinch, pheasant, and blue tit.

At a time when farmers have been coming under fire from anti-meat groups and environmental campaigners, organisers said this year's count offers another chance to highlight the positive effect of agri-environment schemes and conservation work on farmland wildlife.

Organising the count this year is Dr Roger Draycott, head of advisory services for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

He said: "Farmers and gamekeepers are vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species like skylarks, yellowhammers, corn buntings and wild grey partridges.

"They are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land but frequently their efforts to reverse bird declines are largely unrecorded. We believe our Big Farmland Bird Count will help remedy this.

"We understand the crucial role that land managers play in the survival of farmland birds and we want to give them an opportunity of showing what their conservation efforts deliver on the ground.

"It is also a satisfying way to discover the different range of birds that are on the farm and the results can be surprising. We hope it will spur land managers on to do even more work for their farmland birds in the future and that it will act as a catalyst for them to start building their own long-standing wildlife records."

READ MORE: Should farmers think twice before cutting their hedgerows?

Last year's BFBC was a record-breaking count, with 1,400 participants across the country recording 140 species across one million acres - including 30 red-listed species.

The count is sponsored by the National Farmers' Union and the survey results will be analysed by the GWCT.

- For more information and to download a count sheet see the Big Farmland Bird Count website.


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