The Big Farmland Bird Count: evaluating the impact of your conservation efforts

The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count has officially started!  Running from the 7th to the 15th February, it will see thousands of farmers and gamekeepers get out their binoculars and note pads and get twitching!  I will certainly be out and about on my local farm later this week trying to put into practice my new-found Bird Identification Skills.

Last year, I joined in the first GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. We had a very enjoyable half hour observing a range of birds on an area of wild bird seed mix surrounded by hedgerows with some hedgerow trees. However, to me personally, many of the birds, whilst slightly different in size, were all LBJs (Little Brown Jobs!).  I was delighted therefore to attend one of the 12 GWCT Farmland Bird ID Days. The wealth of knowledge by the farmland bird experts as well as the collective knowledge of the attendees was truly inspiring.

Tree Sparrow - one of hundreds of farmland birds to be counted this week during the Big Farmland Bird Count Image © Peter Thompson, GWCT

Tree Sparrow – one of hundreds of farmland birds to be counted this week during the Big Farmland Bird Count Image © Peter Thompson, GWCT

Many farmers across the UK, and worldwide, invest a large amount of time and resource to provide for wildlife on their farms. For birds, the needs can be summarised into 3 areas – ‘The Big Three’:

– Provision of nesting sites

– Provision of insect-rich habitats in the summer

– Provision of seed-rich habitats in winter and spring

Whilst different species require slightly different habitats to provide these resources, the aim is to provide year-round food supply as well as shelter.

With so many farmers doing this, LEAF is pleased to be working with the GWCT and BASF to support the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. It is a great collective opportunity to take the time to try and identify the impacts for farmland birds of your work to conserve and enhance habitats as well as communicate these facts to our wider communities. These are both important parts of LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management.

I still cannot claim to be anywhere near proficient with Farmland Bird Identification, however, there is reassurance from the fact that noting down a bird’s ‘jizz’ can help identify it later. If you are not yet an expert, get out there and look nonetheless and be sure to record the following attributes to allow for later identification of your LBJs.:

A birds jizz can include:

  • Any distinctive features
  • Size – approx. the size of a sparrow? A blackbird? A partridge? Etc.
  • Location – did you see it in the field? In the hedge?
  • Flight – was the flight pattern slow? Fast? Lilting? Smooth?
  • Did it walk or hop?
  • How many – was the bird along or in a flock?
  • Calls

We look forward to seeing the collective responses from all your Big Farmland Bird Counts.


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