Friday, 28 November 2014

Guest blog: BASF delighted to be sponsoring Big Farmland Bird Count

by Graham Hartwell, Environmental Stewardship Manager, BASF plc, Crop Protection

We at BASF are delighted to be continuing our sponsorship of the Big Farmland Bird Count and are very much looking forward to the launch event on 5 December that will be kindly hosted by Patrick Barker at Stowmarket.

I'm also keen to share in the enthusiasm of the GWCT, RSPB, LEAF and FWAG Association in support of the farmland bird ID days planned for January.

That so many farmers responded to the 2014 Big Farmland Bird was testament to the good work and farm management that many farmers have already carried out to help farmland bird numbers.

I hope to learn more from Peter Thompson and Patrick Barker who will keep us all on our toes with bird identification tips and their experience of "making it work" in a practical way.

Resilient habitat creation, well planned field margins and attention to detail are the recipe for success and I was particularly pleased to see so many birds recorded by the Pitts family at Mears Ashby in the BFBC results of 2014. BASF are pleased to be able to work with the Pitts family to communicate their splendid results to many visitors.

Though recent wet summers and hard winters have been difficult for many species, Andrew and William Pitts' approach to habitat creation and winter food provision have paid dividends and bring a resilience to many of the species located on their land.

Their good work is mirrored by James Hinchliffe at Rawcliffe Bridge, Yorkshire who has also made it work for him on his land. As he enters his 12th year of data collection I'm hoping his computer behaves this year and allows him to record his data too - we are already seeing good sized flocks of 'little brown jobs' on the field margin strips.

James will be hosting a training day at Rawcliffe Bridge in January with the RSPB's Chris Thompson and Fraser Hugill of CFE to enlighten us - they always deliver great value and we look forward to an informative day on this well established family farm. Why not register your interest in attending an ID day, click here for details and to get your invite.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Launching the 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count

By Jim Egan, GWCT Allerton Project
#BFBC on Twitter - @JimEgan08

The 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count is fast approaching and planning is now well underway. Things kick off on the 5th December with a launch event in Suffolk which will be hosted by E J Barker & Sons.

Our plan for the day is to run the first of a series of farmland bird identification days where my colleague Peter Thompson will take an invited audience through a training session to help them identify those small farmland birds that many of us struggle with.

Pete will be ably assisted by Patrick Barker who is an excellent birder; when he completed the 2014 count he spotted 44 different species in his 30 minute survey so there should be plenty to see.

There is one big new addition for 2015. Between the 12th and 31st of January we will be running 9 more farmland bird identification events at various venues across the country. We’re being supported by many partners including the FWAG Association, LEAF and the RSPB in delivery of these events and our sponsors BASF have been very generous with some additional funding.

I’m particularly pleased that the RSPB have allowed us to use their fantastic drawings to illustrate a simple farmland bird id guide that will be available on those days. Dates and venues will be announced on the 5th December and you will be able to book your place on our website.

Our reason for counting hasn’t changed; we want to highlight the good work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping farmland bird numbers. We want to help them record the effect of any conservation work on their land and hopefully inspire them to do more!

Last year we had a fantastic response and in one of the wettest weeks on record over 500 farmers and gamekeepers took part. They recorded 116 different species; many of these are on the red-list of birds of conservation concern such as starlings, lapwing, and tree sparrow. We can’t book the weather but surely it can’t be worse than last time, hopefully this year we’ll get more than 1000 people taking part. It only takes 30 minutes and shows you care about birds on your farm – please give it a try.

Farmland Bird ID Days

Places are limited to just 20 for each of the ID days we’re running in January. Click here to register to receive your invite on 5th December.