Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Preparation for the 2016 Big Farmland Bird Count!

For the third year in a row the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is running its Big Farmland Bird Count. It's a great opportunity for land owners, farmers and anyone connected with the countryside to get out and count the wonderful array of species that live in our beautiful countryside.  For 30 minutes between the 6th and 14th of February the idea is to get a 30 minute snap shot of what species are on our farms.  The data can then be sent to the GWCT to give a national picture of how these import species farmland bird species are benefiting or otherwise from our countryside management. Are the numbers increasing or decreasing it's very important that we can identify these trends and act accordingly.  Now I for one, am not a brilliant birder or twitcher but I know a man who is!  On a very sunny day last week we hosted a Farmland Bird Identification training session at Overbury sponsored  by BASF with expert training from Peter Thompson.
We had a fantastic turnout with nearly 30 people, starting in the village hall, to hear about the different species of bird, the nesting habitat they need and the food sources for adults and chicks.  After a great lunch we headed out for a bit of a ramble around the vale farm to see what species we could identify.  Considering the noise, chatter and wind I think we did rather well.  In total we spotted 28 different species, many of which are target BAP species (Biodiversity Action Plan) meaning they are under special priority measures to try and look after them.  Many of the Higher Level Stewardship options we have taken up are being used to encourage these species.  Options such as grass margins, unharvested and unfertilised headlands, wild bird mixes, skylark plots and some fallow patches are all important to create habitat and food sources for these birds.  We looked in hedgerows, on grassland, over water, on farm tracks, adjacent to field margins, in arable fields and across game covers to see what was on show.  Eyes and binoculars were pointing in all directions and here's the species list on show that day. We spotted mallard, coot, heron, robin, dunnock, wren, pied wagtail, blackbird, song thrush, redwing, fieldfarerook, jackdaw, carrion crow, magpie, raven, buzzard, sparrow hawk, yellowhammer (one of my favourites), goldfinch, linnet, chaffinch, skylarkblue tit. great tit, long-tailed tit, pheasant and red-legged partridge.  We are heading out on Thursday morning to put our new identification skills to the test to see if we can beat this impressive list of species.  Many thanks to Peter, to the GWCT and BASF for the event sponsorship as this training will last much longer than just a day in February.  I would encourage everyone who can take part to get out, count some birds and upload the results. It's a very important source of information, helping to prove that we are looking after and enhancing the environment in which we live and work!