Annual bird count on farmland all over Sussex

Yellowhammer - Photo courtesy of P Thompson
Yellowhammer - Photo courtesy of P Thompson
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An annual bird count takes place across the farms of Sussex this month

The fourth Big Farmland Bird Count runs from February 3 to February 12, organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

A spokesperson for the Trust said: “If you want to take part, all you need to do is spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm.

“Farmers, gamekeepers and landowners are crucial in the survival and protection of many farmland bird species.

“However, several of these birds are in decline and efforts to monitor their numbers varies across the country.

“This is your chance to find out what you have on your farm. This year is even easier.

“You can use an exciting new online tool to make it quicker for you to record your count and will enable you to plot trends and compare your farm with others in your region.”

Last year 130 different species were recorded, including long-time resident the yellowhammer.

Other birds expected to be seen include skylarks, which can be found on most areas of open farmland, and corn bunting which prefers open lowland farmland.

Lapwings were one of the most abundant species recorded in the 2016 count, because they live on all types of farmland, but prefer mixed farming systems and extensively managed wet grasslands.

Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “Citizen science seems very fashionable nowadays with initiatives such as the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch attracting plenty of media attention.

“So it’s great to see the farming community having its own version in the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count.”

“I always choose a different spot on my own farm to see what species are attracted by certain locations. In 2015 it was the middle of the marsh, so it was dominated by species such as lapwing, golden plover and brent geese.

“For last year’s BFBC I stood in the field adjacent to my house with an elm hedge on one side and hawthorn on the other.

“This year it will be between ten hectares of wheat and ten hectares of over wintered stubble.”

The GWCT has held 20 ID Days across the UK in the two weeks prior to the count, and each day was run by a farmland bird expert.

Held on participating farms, these were led by experts from both the GWCT and the RSPB experts.

To take part in the Big Farmland Bird Count visit www.gwct.org.uk/bfbc, download a count sheet, count the birds on your farm and submit your results online.