The annual Big Farmland Bird Count is back and you can help by taking part.

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The fifth Big Farmland Bird Count launches in a week’s time and farmers, land managers and gamekeepers across the country are being urged to take part.

The annual initiative, which is run by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), asks participants to help build a record of birds on their farm so they can, where required, target their ongoing conservation work.

This year it is running between Friday, 9 and Sunday, 18 February. Everyone who takes part will receive a report on the national results once they have been analysed by the GWCT.

Last year, 970 gamekeepers and farmers took part and recorded 112 species across 900,000 acres. They recorded 22 red list bird species of conservation concern, including tree sparrow, yellowhammer and song thrush, as well as others such as woodpigeon, pheasant and grey partridge.

Half an hour’s work

Jim Egan, who is head of training and development at the GWCT’s Allerton Project, said that the count should only take about 30 minutes and in return participants will help to raise awareness of the work undertaken by those who work in the countryside to increase bird populations.

“A great number of farmers and keepers are doing tremendous work to boost farmland birds and other wildlife,” he said. “As well as planting seed mixes to provide winter feed, they also leave weedy stubbles over-winter, manage hedgerows so as to leave berries for food, and supplement this by putting out mixed seeds and grain on tracks and field margins.

“However, not everyone appreciates the extent to which farmers and keepers are managing existing habitats and creating new ones specifically to help our farmland birds. Now is the time to change all that.”

The initiative is sponsored by BASF in partnership with FWAG Association and LEAF, with support from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), CLA and Kings. CLA vice president Mark Tufnell said: “Anyone who works on and cares for the land is vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of the country’s most cherished farmland bird species, so the more people we have participating the better.”

Engage with conservation

Guy Smith, NFU vice president, also commented: “Farmers manage 70 per cent of our iconic landscape and are committed to the environment. Ten thousand football pitches worth of flower habitat have been planted, creating homes for wildlife, while more than 30,000km of hedgerows have been planted and restored.

“This year’s Big Farmland Bird Count provides farmers with another great opportunity to show that we are fully engaged with conservation. I would encourage as many farmers as possible to get the binoculars out, dust off the notepad, sharpen the pencil and get recording as you go out and about on the farm.”