A record number of farmers, landowners and gamekeepers took part in the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Big Farmland Bird Count, highlighting a long-term commitment to conservation alongside productive land use.
Held between February 5 and February 21, 2,500 counts were submitted by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers, a 65 per cent increase from counts submitted in 2020.
Land area covered by the count also more than doubled, reaching more than a million hectares, and 81 per cent more birds were counted this year, totalling 503,550.
GWCT’s Dr Roger Draycott, who organised the count, said he was delighted with the response.
“All of this helps us to build a detailed national picture of the state of Britain’s farmland birds, allowing us to better understand what is really going on in our countryside," Dr Draycott said.
“It clearly shows that farmers, land managers and gamekeepers care for the land they work and, given that they look after 71 per cent of all the land in the UK, that is extremely good news for the future of our treasured bird species.
“We would like to thank everyone who took part for demonstrating that land managers can lead the way in protecting our countryside alongside effective food production.”
The GWCT also thanked the NFU for sponsoring the count, which it delivered in partnership with the CLA, Farmers Union of Wales, Ulster Farmers’ Union, Kings, CFE, the FWAG Association, National Sheep Association, Camgrain and LEAF.
This year’s count recorded 25 species from the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, with more than 112,000 Starlings, Fieldfare, Lapwing and Linnet spotted in total, equating to 22 per cent of all the birds counted.
The scheme found 48 per cent of participants were in agri-environment schemes, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management and 39 per cent provided extra support for birds such as growing bird seed mixes or by winter feeding.
Having sponsored the count for the last three years, NFU president Minette Batters, labelled the results as tremendous and thanked all farmers who responded to this year’s count despite the wintry weather.
“British farmers are proud to produce your food and it is often unappreciated that they also provide habitats for wildlife and additional feeding for farmland birds during the winter months," Ms Batters said.
"The Big Farmland Bird Count is always a fantastic way for farmers to record the birdlife found on their farms and why I am really pleased that the NFU could sponsor this year’s count once again.”