Gearing up for the Big Farmland Bird Count

paul tompkins on farm, dairy, web crop, feed, forage, cows, grass_57919

North East dairy board chairman, Paul Tompkins, is urging more farmers to get involved with this year's Big Farmland Bird Count. He writes:

Although winter weather, forage and bedding availability are always variable at this time of year, for me February has two constants in the diary that I look forward to. The first is of course NFU conference – a great time to focus on the farming agenda for the year ahead – but the other unmovable event is the annual Big Farmland Bird Count.

Now in its seventh year, the count is an opportunity for farmers to highlight the positive work we are doing to help reverse the decline in birds on our farms. A full range of farm sizes and from all sectors across the country take part.

Admittedly, I’m more comfortable spotting different grass species than birds, but I find the downloadable identification and counting sheets a great help and can just about sit still for the 30 minutes required without falling asleep (the ultimate challenge for any dairy farmer). Although the findings are of real interest to me, they also help us illustrate the positive picture of what's happening on our farms in contrast to some of the misleading messaging we see about the effects of our production methods on bird populations in the countryside.

For as long as we farm, there will always be those who continue to promote such misconceptions – whether that be on plant protection products, farm emissions or livestock impacts – so we need to be up for the challenge of shouting just as loudly about the work we do and how we deliver for the environment alongside feeding the nation.

Of course the NFU is working hard on this whether in schools with the awesome work being undertaken by the education team or the Back British Farming campaign that is supported by tens of thousands of people. But all of this becomes so much more credible if we as farmers provide the evidence to champion what we do.

This month, the Big Farmland Bird Count is an extra way we can each help build a positive story about how we produce the nation's food. Historically most participants are from other parts of the country so it would be great if we were to see a larger number of North East farmers take part this year.

The NFU is once again be a key sponsor of the 2020 count, and is urging all members to spare some time to get involved this year between 7-16 February, 2020.

Last year, more than 1,400 wildlife enthusiasts recorded 140 species over one million acres in what was a record-breaking effort. The hope is that even more members will get involved this year.

Here are the three simple steps you need to take to join in:

  • Download your count sheet from the BFBC website.
  • Count your birds! On a single day between 7-16 February, spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.
  • Once you’ve completed your count, simply submit your results at:
  • At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.