Survey to evaluate attempts to save birds on farmland

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Farmers are being urged to take part in one of the most wide-ranging surveys of farmland birds so that experts can monitor the success of conservation efforts.

Attempts to revive the fortunes of rapidly declining bird species have involved farmers and gamekeepers sowing certain crops.

Some 40,000 acres of special wildlife seed crops are now being grown on farmland across England, according to figures gathered by Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

In addition, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) reports that thousands of tonnes of grain such as wheat are now being provided as supplementary food for farmland birds to help them survive the winter.

Between February 1 and 7 the GWCT will run its first annual Big Farmland Bird Count to evaluate how our farmland bird species are faring.

Jim Egan, of the GWCT’s Allerton Project Farm in Leicester, said: “Farmers and gamekeepers are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land. Their efforts to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges are therefore vital.

“We believe that having a better understanding of which conservation measures are proving to be attractive to birds and which are not will be enormously helpful in adding to our understanding of why our birds are still declining.”

He said he hopes the Big Farmland Bird Count will spur people on to do more work for farmland birds and will act as a catalyst for them to start building their own long-standing wildlife records.

During the count, farmers will asked to spend half an hour recording bird species and numbers seen on one area of their farm.