A RECORD number of farmers participated in this year’s Big Farmland Bird Count, leading to 81 per cent more birds being counted over one million hectares of British farmland.

The annual nationwide survey, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and sponsored by the NFU for the past three years, showed some encouraging results.

Despite much of the country being blanketed in snow during the survey period (February 5-21), 2,500 counts were returned. This represents a 65 per cent increase in the number of counts submitted compared to 2020.

A total of 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded in this year’s count, with eight appearing in the 25 most frequently seen species list.

Of these, starlings, fieldfare, lapwing and linnet were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded, with more than 112,000 spotted in total, which equates to 22 per cent of all the birds counted.

The five most abundant birds counted were woodpigeons, starlings, rooks, fieldfares and chaffinches. A total of 190,000 were seen, making up over 37 per cent of the total number of birds recorded.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “These results are tremendous and I would like to thank all those farmers who responded to this year’s count in record numbers despite the wintry weather back in February. It’s great too that so many different threatened species were spotted such as lapwing and linnet."

GWCT’s Dr Roger Draycott, who organised the count, said they were delighted with the response to this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count.

He said: "Participation has shot up compared to 2020, which was also a record year. The land area covered by the count has more than doubled to over a million hectares and 81 per cent more birds have been counted this year by more than 700 additional volunteers.

“All of this helps us to build a detailed national picture of the state of Britain’s farmland birds, allowing us to better understand what is really going on in our countryside.

"It clearly shows that farmers, land managers and gamekeepers care for the land they work and, given that they look after 71 per cent of all the land in the UK, that is extremely good news for the future of our treasured bird species.

“We would like to thank everyone who took part for demonstrating that land managers can lead the way in protecting our countryside alongside effective food production.”