GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count

GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count

This weekend we participated in the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count on the farm with the help of Chris (my Dad!) who is our resident bird expert. Or as we should say ‘ornithologist’!

The Big Farmland Bird Count is an annual event that encourages farmers and land managers to record the bird species and numbers on their farms. It is organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and sponsored by the National Farmers Union (NFU). The count aims to raise awareness of the important role that farmers play in the conservation of farmland birds, and to provide a snapshot of the bird population on UK farms during a specific period.

The count has been running since 2014 and has provided a fascinating snapshot of the farmed landscape. Since the first count, more than 11,000 counts have been carried out by people working on our farms. Last year over 1700 farmers took part in recording 149 species across more than 1.5 million acres.

The process is simple, you just choose a field that you are going to survey where you can see at least 2 hectares then stand for 30 minutes and record everything that you see.

We chose ‘Letterbox Field’ (named due to the old letterbox in the wall!) which is a mixed habitat of a permanent grass pasture field bordered on one side by the river and trees on the other with woodland beyond.

The weather was for once on our side and was clear and sunny. Will and Dad conducted the survey between 15:08 and 15:38 on Sunday.

During the survey they saw;

X1 Blue Tit

X4 Buzzards

X6 Carrion Crows

X1 Coal Tit

X3 Goldfinchs

X12 Herring Gulls

X50+ Jackdaws

X2 Robins

X3 Woodpigeons

Why Is This All Important?

Well the survey results provide valuable data on the state of farmland birds and the effectiveness of conservation measures.

Last week Will and I attended ‘Rootstock’ in Exeter which was billed as a conference for South West farmers on resilient, profitable, regenerative farming. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and came away feeling inspired and energised that the farm was certainly heading in the right direction.

We particularly enjoyed the session with Martin Lines who is CEO of the Nature Friendly Farming Network He spoke about the importance of knowing your ‘environmental and nature baseline’ before embarking on environmental projects meaning – What do I already have on the farm?

The results of the bird count will be particularly interesting over the next year as we are actually going to be planting ‘Letterbox’ in herbal leys or as experts at the conference would say a ‘diverse species sward’. In layman’s terms the field will be full of a great mixture of plants not just grass. We already have large parts of the farm planted like this and you can read more about them in this previous blog I’m hoping and I haven’t asked Dad yet but that he will come back and we can repeat the count regularly through the year to make a record as the herbal leys take root.

Whilst I may have a ‘birding’ Dad I am no ornithological expert, in fact my knowledge is pretty poor! But I am on a mission to improve and have downloaded the ‘Merlin’ app on my phone which will listen to bird song and identify it for you. Well worth a download if you are interested.

We firmly believe in farming alongside nature and that working in harmony is absolutely essential to provide a sustainable future for our farm, our family and for our environment.