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Farming and Environment | 24th April 2020

Farmers count on their resident birds


SIXTY farmers in Scotland recorded 81 species on 81,362 acres during the Big Farmland Bird Count in February.
Nineteen of these species are red-listed. The five most-commonly-seen birds were blackbird, pheasant, robin, blue tit and carrion crow.
The red-listed birds and the numbers seen were black grouse (21); curlew (36); fieldfare (152); grey partridge (43); grey wagtail (8); herring gull (72); house sparrow (362); lapwing (52); lesser redpoll (4); linnet (12); mistle thrush (16); merlin (1); redwing (84); skylark (86); song thrush (13); starling (427); tree sparrow (130); twite (3) woodcock (4); and yellow-hammer (147).
As far as the survey is able to calculate, the species in decline are the black grouse, curlew, fieldfare, grey partridge, herring gull, starling, twite, woodcock and yellowhammer.
The rest are either stable or increasing.
In 2019 61 farmers took part, recording 93 species on 57,881 acres. The most-commonly seen species then were blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, pheasant and robin.
Altogether, 1,500 farmers took part in the UK. An impressive 25 red-listed species were recorded. Nine featured in the 25 most-commonly-seen birds.
Of these, fieldfares, starlings, linnets and lapwings were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded, with more than 67,000 spotted, equating to 24 per cent of all species recorded.

The five most abundant birds seen in the UK were wood-pigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks.
Dr Dave Parish, head of Lowland Research, Scotland, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “In Scotland, while the numbers taking part were broadly equivalent to last year, the area covered significantly increased.
“However, there was no surprising fluctuation in species being spotted, four of the top five remaining the same year on year.
“South of the border GWCT received a record-breaking number of count returns, despite Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis wreaking havoc on many farms.
“This highlights the commitment of farmers to undertake farm wildlife conservation measures and record and evaluate the benefits of this vital conservation work.
“With a likely increased focus on delivering public goods in future government support schemes, understanding what is on your farm is increasingly important.
“Slightly more than a third of Scottish participants are in some form of agri-environment scheme, demonstrating their long-term commitment to
environmental management.
“In the UK 36 per cent of farmers taking part were providing some form of extra seed feed for birds, either through growing wild bird seed mixes or additional grain through scatter feeding or hoppers.”
The count 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 scattering seed through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.

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