Little Braxted: Farmers to get lesson on how to identify farmland birds

A female yellowhammer perched on a branch.

A female yellowhammer perched on a branch. - Credit: Tom Marshall (

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has joined forces with the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) to give farmers an opportunity of learning how to identify the everyday birds that live on their farms at a farmland bird ID day on Thursday, February 5, at Little Braxted, Witham.

The aim of the training day, which is now fully booked, is to help farmers participate in the GWCT’s 2015 Big Farmland Bird Count which will take place between February 7 and 15. So far more than 1,600 farmers are registered to take part in this country-wide survey.

Kit Speakman, Essex chairman of FWAG East said: “We’ve decided to run this event because I think it’s really important that as many people as possible get behind the count and brush up on their birding skills. We all spend a lot of time fussing over our margins and manicuring our mixes, and we know they deliver for wild birds, but can we identify them? We all enjoy seeing flocks of small birds feeding on our seed, swooping over our hedgerows and darting for cover, but how can we demonstrate the value of our efforts unless we know exactly what we are attracting onto our farms?

“At the event I’m looking forward to hearing from expert FWAG birder Tim Schofield on identifying the different species and putting this into practice on my farm, so that I can contribute meaningfully to the count between February 7 and 15. It’s time we take our conservation efforts full circle, make them measurable and let the public know how we are supporting farmland birds.”

The GWCT believes that the efforts being made by farmers to reverse bird declines frequently go unrecognised despite them being vital in safeguarding the future of many of our most cherished bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges.

Jim Egan from the GWCT said the Big Farmland Bird Count helped to remedy this as it showcased some of the remarkable conservation efforts being carried out by farmers, landowners and gamekeepers such as providing supplementary over-winter food or by growing wild bird seed mixes.

“It is also a useful way to measure how birds are faring on our farms across the country. Once farmers are aware of what birds they have on their farm, they can more accurately target the recovery of individual species by putting in place specific conservation measures,” he said.

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For those interested in taking part in the Big Farmland Bird Count, the GWCT is providing a simple tick sheet that can be downloaded from the GWCT’s website and taken into the field to record any sightings. Participants will then be able to send the results either via a dedicated web page or through the post. The GWCT is inviting people to spend about half an hour recording the species and number of birds seen on one area of the farm. Visit: for information.

Sponsored by BASF, the count is run in partnership with the FWAG Association and Linking the Environment and Farming (LEAF) and receives grateful support from a wide range of farming and industry organisations.

Although the Bird ID Day organised by FWAG East is full, it is possible to book on a course planned for next year. Contact Jilly McNaughton at FWAG East on 01223 841507. For more information on the GWCT’s Big Farmland Bird Count, contact Morag Walker on or 07736 124097.