Bird Count JM Small

Bird Count Takes Off

Farmers from across East Anglia descended on a farm near Witham last week to learn how to identify farmland birds in preparation for the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count, which runs from the 7th to the 15th February.

The event, which was over-subscribed, was hosted by FWAG East’s  Essex Chair, Kit Speakman of Little Braxted.

Kit Speakman, FWG East Essex Chair

Kit Speakman, FWAG East’s Essex Chair.

Kit said, “I knew this would be a popular event with farmers. Most of us put in a lot of measures on our farms aimed at reversing bird declines and we want to see for ourselves if and how these efforts are paying off.”

Farmers heard from FWAG bird expert Tim Schofield, who described the needs of farmland birds and explained how to identify and distinguish between species, before heading out onto the farm to try out their birding skills in the field.

Bird Count Tim Schofield Small  JM

Tim Schofield, FWAG bird expert.

All of the farmers present plan to take part in the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) in the coming week by taking half an hour to monitor the birds on their own farms and reporting their findings back to the GWCT.

It is hoped the BFBC will give a useful snapshot of how farmland birds are faring, while better-acquainting farmers with the species they are helping. It is also aimed at raising awareness among the general public of the conservation taking place on farms up and down the country. To get involved visit:

Did you know?

Many bird species feed exclusively on insects as chicks. As a food source, the larvae of the Sawfly is equivalent to 20 aphids. However, the move to winter cropping in recent years means less tender young growth is available for the Sawfly to lay its eggs on in the spring and summer. By cutting half of your grass margins in early summer, enough new growth is created to boost the availability of insects for nesting birds.

Oil seed rape (which is usually rich in insect life, due to the abundance of flowers) provides fantastic nesting habitat for many farmland birds, including linnet, reed bunting, dunnock, white throat and Yellow wagtail. The birds make their small nests in the branching understory and as the rape grows and heads upwards, so too do the nests!l

Farmland birds, which have evolved alongside our farmland, are faced with the challenge of adapting to the great changes in agricultural practice of the past century. For example, before the Second World War it was known that around 70 per cent of a bunting’s diet was made up of weed seeds. Post-war this figure switched to 70 per cent of their diets being provided by crop seeds/grains, as developments in herbicides mean weeds are now controlled more effectively on farms.

If you would like more information about improving the habitat for farmland birds on you farm, call us on: 01223 841507.

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FWAG East is part of the FWAG Association: FWAG East CIC is a limited company registered in England. Registered No: 08776388. Thanks to Chris Loades for images: