MORE than 1500 farmers across Britain overcame challenging conditions to make the 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) the biggest since it launched in 2014.

Farmers battled through the worst winter flooding in recent years to show they are not only at the frontline of the country’s food security, but also its conservation efforts. Their dedication was rewarded as they recorded more than 120 species across 1.4 million acres in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) initiative this February.

Due to storms Ciara and Dennis hitting both weekends of the count, organisers took the step to extend the count window by a week in response to calls from hundreds of farmers who wanted to take part but couldn’t do so. The commitment of those counting at a time when tens of thousands of acres were left inundated with floodwater should not be overlooked.

An impressive 25 red-listed species were recorded, with nine featuring in the 25 most commonly seen species. Of these, fieldfares, starlings, linnets and lapwings were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded with more than 67,000 in total, which equates to 24 per cent of all species spotted. The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks.

CLA Director North Dorothy Fairburn said: “I am delighted to hear that 1,500 farmers and land managers, including many CLA members, took part in this year’s count, particularly as the weather conditions were so challenging.

“I was particularly encouraged by the news that nine red-listed species appeared on the most commonly seen list, which serves to highlight the importance of the work that many farmers and landowners do on habitat management.”

CLA Rural Surveyor Robert Frewen said: “We counted our fields in Swaledale again this year, with the highlight being a pair of wild English partridge, but we also spotted both nuthatch and treecreeper and our tawny owl population goes from strength to strength with a nightly chorus from the trees behind the farmhouse.”

n 22 farmers in County Durham and Northumberland took part over more than 7,161 ha across the two counties and recorded 66 species.

The greatest number of species recorded were jackdaws with 1,702 counted, followed by woodpigeons, starlings and rooks.

Pheasants were the most commonly recorded species with over 90 per cent of participants recording them, followed by blackbirds at 80 per cent, chaffinches by 76 per cent and great tits by 71% per cent.

18 out of 25 UK red listed species were recorded with starlings being the most common and recorded by 57 per cent of farmers, tree sparrows being seen by 52 per cent and yellowhammers by 47 per cent. Behind starlings, linnets and lapwings were the next most counted red listed species with 321 and 225 being counted respectively.