Binoculars at the ready, the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) is back for it’s fifth consecutive year and once again calls on farmers, land managers and gamekeepers to keep a look out and take note of the birds they come across between 9 and 18 February.

The count, which is run across the UK by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is an opportunity to collect data on the variety of birds which inhabit farms and the surrounding land.

Many farmers and gamekeepers love to see barn owls, bullfinch, lapwing, grey partridge, tree sparrow and yellowhammer on their land and founder and organiser of the count Jim Eagan of GWCT is hoping for a big turnout. He said:

“A great number of farmers and keepers are doing tremendous work to boost farmland birds and other wildlife. As well as planting seed mixes to provide winter feed, they also leave weedy stubbles over-winter, manage hedgerows so as to leave berries for food, and supplement this by putting out mixed seeds and grain on tracks and field margins.”

At a time where the link between farmers and environmental practice is failing to register with the public, the count comes at an important time and demonstrates the extent to which farmers and keepers are managing existing habitats and creating new ones specifically to help our farmland birds.

Mr Eagan is head of training and development at the GWCT’s renowned Allerton Project, where research has identified how to bring bird numbers back on productive farmland. The number of birds present there has been doubled by adapting a management system originally developed for gamebirds.

“Each farmer has their own approach to wildlife conservation, but across the country the hard work being undertaken makes us optimistic for the future,” Mr Eagan concluded.

Last year, 970 farmers and keepers took part and recorded 112 species across 900,000 acres. They recorded 22 Red List species including fieldfare, tree sparrow, starling, yellowhammer and song thrush. The count aims to help farmers and keepers build a record of birds on their farm so they can, where necessary, target their conservation work.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.