Norfolk farmers top of the crops in record-breaking bird count

Just Regional
Apr 3, 2020 3 mins read

For the second year running, farmers from Norfolk made the biggest contribution to the national Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) – the biggest since it launched in 2014.

Farmers battled through the worst winter flooding in recent years to show they were not only at the frontline of the country’s food security, but also its conservation efforts. Their dedication was rewarded as they recorded more than 120 species across 1.4 million acres in the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) initiative this February.

Due to storms Ciara and Dennis hitting on both weekends of the count, organisers took the step to extend the count window by a week in response to calls from hundreds of farmers who wanted to take part but couldn’t do so.

In Norfolk, 129 farmers took part covering 42,570ha (105,148 acres). Of these, an impressive 59pc are in an agri-environment scheme, well above the national average. They counted 105 species, 22 of which are red-listed and the top five most seen were blackbird, woodpigeon, robin, pheasant, and blue tit.

The woodpigeon was among the most regularly spotted birds in Norfolk.

“Farmers in Norfolk have once again shown how passionate they are about conserving wildlife on their land. The fact we received a record-breaking number of count returns despite Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis wreaking havoc for many farm businesses is remarkable,” said Roger Draycott, GWCT head of advisory, who took on responsibility for co-ordinating this year’s count.

“This highlights the commitment of farmers to not only undertake farm wildlife conservation measures but also to record and evaluate the benefits of this vital conservation work.”

An impressive 25 red-listed species were recorded nationally, with nine featuring in the 25 most-commonly seen species. Of these, fieldfares, starlings, linnets and lapwings were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded, with more than 67,000 spotted in total – equating to 24pc of all species spotted. The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks.

Farmers the length and breadth of the country took the initiative to heart, with every county in England represented in the count. Wiltshire ranked second with 68 farmers taking part, with Hampshire and Suffolk following close behind with 67 each. There were also responses from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and, thanks to some passionate overseas conservationists, Austria.

The average farm size of those taking part was 920 acres (372 hectares), and includes arable, livestock and dairy farms, alongside horticulture units, poultry producers and pig producers submitting counts. The survey areas included important environmental features such as hedges, woodland edges, ponds, grass margins, wild bird cover, ditches and trees.

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds. The count offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation work currently being instigated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as scatter-feeding birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.

To view the results in full, visit www.bfbc.org.uk/2020results

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