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Record breaking year for farmland bird survey

16 January 2012

Nik Shelton
Media Officer
E-mail: nik.shelton@rspb.org.uk

With golden orioles and golden eagles identified, records broken and thousands of skylarks recorded - 2011 was another eventful year for the RSPB’s Volunteer & Farmer Alliance.

 

The annual results for the scheme, which sees volunteers carrying out free bird surveys for farmers across the UK, are in. They paint a picture of birds thriving on many wildlife-friendly farms across our countryside as well as increasing demand from farmers for advice on how to help them.

 

Last year the scheme saw nearly 750 surveys carried out with more than 100 species recorded across the UK. A farm in Lincolnshire set a new record with an amazing 85 species spotted in one survey, including breeding avocets.

 

On the Devon coast one volunteer was lucky enough to glimpse a golden oriole – one of Britain’s rarest birds – while a survey on a farm in Kent recorded 61 species including quail, ring ouzel and spotted flycatcher.

 

Nine out of ten farms in East Anglia and the Midlands recorded skylarks while starlings were the most sighted species in Northern England and yellowhammers in the South West. Grey partridges cropped up on more than half of farms in Northern England and cuckoos were found on more than 40 per cent of South East farms. Turtle doves were a rare sight for surveyors with just 14 per cent of farms in the species’ stronghold in East Anglia recording the birds.

 

In Scotland an average of 30 species per farm were recorded on the 140 farms surveyed. These included golden eagles, hen harriers and black grouse.

 

In Wales the average number of species per farm was 40 with highlights including a massive flock of hundreds of house sparrows, goldfinches, greenfinches and linnets over a well managed hay meadow.

 

In Northern Ireland a red kite was recorded by our volunteers for the first time. The average number of bird species per farm this year was 30, and the largest number of species recorded on a single farm was 50.

 

Richard Winspear, senior RSPB agriculture advisor, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance with more and more farmers learning about the wildlife on their farms thanks to an army of dedicated amateur experts.

 

“These volunteers get up at the crack of dawn to carry out these surveys and do an amazing job. Every farmer gets a map of their farm showing where each species is breeding which they can use to plan conservation measures.

 

“It’s great to hear all the stories we get back from our volunteers which over the past year have included encounters with some rare and spectacular birds like golden eagle, quail and even a golden oriole.

 

“But the most heartening thing is to see the enthusiasm farmers show for the wildlife on their land. With vital information from surveys like these and the right advice and support through the agri-environment schemes, they can make a real difference for farmland birds.

 

“This is a very popular service and we get a lot of requests from farmers, so much so that in some areas we are oversubscribed. Farmers have benefitted from this free service for a number of years however it does require investment and in these austere times we are looking to see how we can continue to support it into the future.”

 

The Volunteer & Farmer Alliance has been running since 1999. More than 6,000 farms have been surveyed since the project began. This has involved over 107,500 hours - more than 12 years - of volunteer support.

 

Since 2010 it has been supported by funding from the EU Life+ Programme. For more information, to sign up for a survey, or to volunteer to carry out surveys, visit the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance webpage at www.rspb.org.uk/vandfa

Notes

Volunteer and Farmer Alliance 2011 results tables

 

England – percentage of farms where birds were found

 

 

Eastern England

Midlands

Northern England

South East England

South West England

Corn bunting

23

11

21

14

15

Cuckoo

34

40

14

46

10

Grey partridge

46

31

56

14

3

Kestrel

51

60

56

61

28

Lapwing

34

40

75

32

10

Linnet

80

78

55

57

55

Skylark

91

91

72

71

63

Starling

69

71

79

46

30

Tree sparrow

14

38

50

0

3

Turtle dove

14

2

0

7

0

Yellowhammer

80

89

62

64

65

Yellow wagtail

28

22

12

0

3

 

 

Scotland – percentage of farms where birds were found

 

 

East Scotland

Orkney & Shetland

North Scotland

South & West Scotland

Corn bunting

4

0

0

0

Cuckoo

8

5

16

19

Grey partridge

29

0

4

16

Kestrel

21

0

12

24

Lapwing

38

71

48

49

Linnet

46

43

36

49

Skylark

88

81

56

59

Starling

88

95

84

84

Tree sparrow

38

0

0

22

Yellowhammer

83

0

36

51

 

 

Wales – percentage of farms where birds were found

 

Cuckoo

29

Curlew

35

Grey partridge

3

Kestrel

26

Lapwing

23

Linnnet

56

Skylark

47

Starling

29

Tree sparrow

6

Yellowhammer

29

Yellow wagtail

6

 

 

Northern Ireland – percentage of farms where birds were found

 

Cuckoo

10

Curlew

8

Kestrel

12

Lapwing

4

Linnet

37

Skylark

17

Snipe

6

Starling

88

Tree sparrow

37

Yellowhammer

19