by Roger Draycott, GWCT Head of Advisory Services
Several of my colleagues have been busy over the past few weeks undertaking training days for farmers ahead of the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count. Yesterday it was my turn to help out. I organised a Farmland Bird ID Day with Andrew Holland, from the RSPB, at Field Farm, in Hockwold, South Norfolk.
I was expecting that we would be able to show lots of different birds for the attendees because the farm has a very enthusiastic farm manager, Steve Harrison. Steve is a keen conservationist; indeed he won the Norfolk Grey Partridge Trophy a couple of years ago. But I was not expecting to see the sheer quantity of birds that were on the farm yesterday.
After we had given a brief on the farmland birds that we hope to see in the Big Farmland Bird Count in February we went out into the fields. Steve had been feeding along a farm track in preparation of our visit and within two minutes of us getting out our binoculars and telescopes we had seen a large flock of Reed Buntings, Corning Buntings and a tree sparrow.
We waited around for a few more minutes admiring these birds and then just before moving off a yellowhammer arrived. It was a cold day and this abundance of birds really highlighted the importance of feeding through the hungry gap.
We then moved off across the farm to look at some wild bird cover; Andrew, Steve and I explained the variety of wild bird cover and mixes that are available and the best ways of establishing and managing them.
We then walked off across a weedy stubble and flushed two pairs of grey partridges and a large flock of skylarks. As we were looking at the skylarks as if on cue a flock of Linnets came into view. Making our way across the stubble we then saw some starlings and several fieldfares.
Over the course of a couple of hours we were very lucky to see a wide selection of the farmland birds we hope many farmers will see when they undertake their farmland bird counts between 7th and 15th February this year.
There are still a few places left on our remaining Farmland Bird ID Days which are coming up over the next week or so – so please book on and brush up on your I.D. skills.