Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
1:36 PM 1st April 2020

Big Farmland Bird Count

More than 1500 farmers across Britain overcame challenging conditions to make the 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) the biggest since it launched in 2014.

Farmers battled through the worst winter flooding in recent years to show they are not only at the frontline of the country’s food security, but also its conservation efforts. Their dedication was rewarded as they recorded more than 120 species across 1.4 million acres in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) initiative this February. Due to storms Ciara and Dennis hitting both weekends of the count, organisers took the step to extend the count window by a week in response to calls from hundreds of farmers who wanted to take part but couldn’t do so. The commitment of those counting at a time when tens of thousands of acres were left inundated with floodwater should not be overlooked.

An impressive 25 red-listed species were recorded, with nine featuring in the 25 most-commonly seen species. Of these, fieldfares, starlings, linnets and lapwings were the four most abundant red listed species recorded with over 67,000 in total, which equates to 24% of all species spotted. The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks.

CLA Deputy President Mark Tufnell said:

“I am delighted to hear that 1,500 farmers and land managers, including many CLA members, took part in this year’s count, particularly as the weather conditions were so challenging.

“I was particularly encouraged by the news that nine red-listed species appeared on the most commonly seen list, which serves to highlight the importance of the work that many farmers and landowners do on habitat management.

Dr Roger Draycott, who is GWCT's head of advisory who took on responsibility for co-ordinating this year’s count, said:

“The fact we received a record-breaking number of count returns, despite Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis wreaking havoc for many farm businesses, is remarkable.

“This highlights the commitment of farmers to not only undertake farm wildlife conservation measures but also to record and evaluate the benefits of this vital conservation work.”

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. The count offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation work currently being instigated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as scatter feeding birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.