Far more farmers sought for big bird count

The success of conservation efforts on farms will be measured this winter in order to better understand which farmland bird species are thriving and which are in need of greater support.

Organisers of the annual Big Farmland Bird Count want far more farmers, land managers and gamekeepers to take part when the nationwide citizen science project returns in the new year.

Greater participation will serve to address misconceptions about farmers’ commitment to wildlife, said Peter Thompson, a biodiversity advisor at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

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The charity is holding the count for the sixth successive year in 2019, when land managers and owners are asked to spend 30 minutes spotting species between February 8 and February 17.

Mr Thompson said: “Many, many farmers do lots on their farms to encourage wildlife, but when I give talks to the public, they always seem most surprised that this is the case.”

He added: “Last year, just over a 1,000 people took part in the count, which on the face of it looks fantastic. However, there are around 212,000 farm holdings and around 3,000 full-time gamekeepers in the UK, and a similar number who do the job part time. Therefore, less than one in every 200 of potential counters took part last year. Perhaps, this is why the public seem unaware of your efforts.”

The 2018 count recorded 121 species across 950,000 acres including 25 red-listed species.

For details on how to take part, see the GWCT website.