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116 bird species on English farmland

Bird watchers

Bird watchers

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has announced the Big Farmland Bird Count results.

Over 500 farmers from across England took part and recorded 116 species between them. Each farmer recorded the species and number of birds they saw standing in one spot on the farm during 30 minutes between 1-7 February 2014.

The survey areas included important environmental features such as hedges, woodland ponds, grass margins, ditches and trees. Most survey sites were next to winter cereals, grassland or over wintered stubbles.

The five most abundant birds seen were starling, woodpigeon, fieldfare, rook and chaffinch with starlings being the most common and seen on 40 per cent of farms.

There were 11 red list species spotted – corn bunting, fieldfare, grey partridge, house sparrow, lapwing, linnet, skylark, song thrush, tree sparrow and yellow hammer.

Some farmers also had sightings of twite, lesser spotted woodpecker, bittern, wax wing and great grey shrike.

NFU Countryside Adviser Claire Robinson said: “It is great to see that so many farmers took part in the survey. Farmers and growers have 51,000 hectares in agri-environment schemes aimed at farmland birds, and that’s just HLS. Many farmers now commit land and time to wildlife management within the industry’s Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE). Their role is integral to supporting birds that use farm land for habitat.

“The results seen in the count were really positive showing that farm land supports many bird species, many more than the 19 species that form the farmland bird index.

“The latest data from Defra shows that wild bird numbers have been resilient over many decades, with only a relatively small decline (one per cent) in the past 40 years of monitoring.”

The NFU has supported the development of CFE’s 8 steps for arable farmers to improve the wider environment and provide habitat for farmland birds.

 

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