The call is going out to the Scotland’s farmers, gamekeepers and land managers to take part in the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count in 2022 from February 4 – 20.
The Big Farmland Bird Count has been organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust every year since 2014 to encourage farmers and gamekeepers to support farmland birds and highlight the hard work already done by many of them to help reverse species’ declines.
The count also gives a vital national snapshot of the health of the UK’s birdlife.
Somem 2500 counts were completed in 2021, an impressive increase on 2020 when 1,500 count forms came in to the GWCT. And the area covered by the 2021 count was a massive 2.5 million acres of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, up from 1.4 million acres the year before.
Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Dr Dave Parish said: ‘Farmers and gamekeepers are vital in helping to ensure the survival of many of our cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn bunting and wild grey partridges.
‘Our farmers and land managers are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land, so they are in a position to make a real difference.
‘Now we are challenging the UK’s land managers to beat their own record and make 2022’s count bigger than ever.
‘For land managers keen to support wild birds, a few small changes can have a significant impact. The GWCT’s Advisory team offers advice on improving biodiversity on farms and shoots.
‘Modern farming methods mean that there is often not enough natural food for wildlife left in the countryside in late winter and early spring.
‘One of the best ways to support wild and game birds is to provide extra winter seed food. Supplementary feeding is particularly beneficial for birds of conservation concern like grey partridge, corn bunting and yellowhammer.’
The use of ‘conservation headlands’ – wide field margins where little or no pesticides are used – is also very good for farmland birds. Allowing broad-leaved weeds to flourish boosts insect populations which are a key food-source for birds. Planting and managing hedgerows also provides crucial food, as well as nesting habitat and a safe haven from predators.
GWCT advisors also encourage land managers to maintain small wet areas around the farm, such as ditches, scrapes and even old horse ponds. These can help to attract wading birds and provide nesting and foraging sites for a range of birds, including threatened species like snipe and lapwing.
By leaving an area of uncropped, cultivated land farmers can provide suitable nesting and foraging areas for wild birds which prefer to forage on open ground.
To take part, farmers, gamekeepers and land managers simply need to download a count sheet from bfbc.org.uk and spend just 30 minutes between February 4 and 20 counting birds on one spot on farm, plus a few minutes inputting results via the website.
Guides to counting and identifying birds, biodiversity-boosting tips, and more details on taking part are all available on the website. Participants are encouraged to share photos or videos of themselves counting on social media using #bfbc