The 2023 Big Farmland Bird Count will begin next week on Friday, February 3, and run for a little over two weeks until February 19.

During this period, farmers and land owners/managers are encouraged to take 30 minutes to count the birds they see on their land, and submit the results to the count organisers, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Last year, for the 2022 count, over 1,900 UK farmers took part, and over 420,000 birds were counted.

“In the ten years since the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count began, the commitment shown by an ever-growing number of farmers and land managers to supporting and monitoring birds and other wildlife is inspiring and should be celebrated,” said the GWCT’s Dr. Roger Draycott, who runs the count.

The aim of the voluntary count is to build a picture of the status of the UK’s farmland species.

However, it also allows farmers and land managers to measure the impact of conservation efforts they make.

In Dr. Draycott’s words, it is an opportunity to  “show our appreciation for all those farmers, gamekeepers and other land managers who work so hard to support our wildlife, mostly unrecognised by the wider public”.

President of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which sponsors the count, Minette Batters, is encouraging “all farmers to get involved” in the 2023 Big Farmland Bird Count.

Beyond the count, the GWCT is also encouraging farmers and land manager, to support farmland birds.

“A few small changes can make a big difference,” said GWCT game and wildlife advisor Amber Lole.

“Modern farming methods mean that there is often not enough natural food for wildlife left in the countryside in late winter and early spring, causing what is known as the ‘hungry gap’.

“One of the best things you can do to support farmland birds is to provide extra winter seed food. Supplementary feeding is particularly beneficial for birds of conservation concern like grey partridge, yellowhammer and corn bunting.”

Other efforts, the GWCT advises, include using ‘conservation headlands’, which are wide field margins where little or no pesticides are used, allowing natural bird food sources (i.e. weeds and insects populations) to flourish; and planting and managing hedgerows.

GWCT advisors also encourage land managers to maintain small wet areas around the farm to help attract wading birds.