NATURE lovers across the county are being urged to take part in the Big Farmland Bird Count, which is back for the sixth successive year.

The project calls on farmers, land managers and gamekeepers to spend 30 minutes spotting species on their patch of land between February 8 and 17.

The results aim to distinguish which farmland birds are thriving due to good conservation efforts while identifying the ones in need of most help.

Peter Thompson, a biodiversity advisor at BFBC organisers Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), said: “The Big Farmland Bird Count gives individual farmers the chance to spend just half and hour counting birds on their farm so that the GWCT can shout from the rooftops about your results.”

Last year a record-breaking 1,000 people took part in the count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the most commonly seen species list. These included fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40 per cent of the farms taking part.

But Peter believes hundreds more people should vow their support to the initiative.

He added: “Last year, just over 1,000 people took part in the count, which on the face of it looks fantastic.

“However, there are around 212,000 farm holdings and around 3,000 full time gamekeepers in the UK – and a similar number who do the job part time. Therefore, less than one in every 200 of potential counters took part last year.”

Sponsoring the count this year is the NFU, whose president Minette Batters will be bird-spotting on the first day of the count on her Wiltshire farm.

She said: “The NFU is extremely pleased to be sponsoring the 2019 GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count.

“This event highlights perfectly how farmers balance excellent conservation work on farms across the country alongside producing the nation’s food.

“Over the past four decades, farmers have carried out a huge amount of work to encourage wildlife and are responsible for protecting, maintaining and enhancing 70 per cent of the nation’s iconic countryside.

“I would encourage as many farmers as possible to participate during the event in February as this is crucial in the survival and protection of many farmland bird species.”

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