Our farmland bird identification event in mid February started in the Wool Barn by kind permission of Frampton Court Estate, where the knowledgeable speakers including Gordon Kirk, regional representative from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Richard Hollis FWAGSW’s trainee Farm Environment Advisor in Cornwall gave presentations. This day is one of a calendar of events for the Severn Vale Guardians farmer group, a Defra funded Facilitation Fund group.  

The discussions offered guidance on distinguishing common farmland birds through visual observations and contrasting calls. Following this, attendees learned about the procedures for conducting surveys on their own land as part of the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC), an annual event organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust that encourages farmers and land managers to record the bird species on their farm; and aims to raise awareness of the important role that farmers play in the conservation of farmland birds.  


Gordon Kirk also explained the role of the BTO, urging farmers to get involved with surveys when approached by the organisation. He emphasised the opportunity to link up with knowledgeable local bird watchers to ensure accurate information on bird population trends.  

The presentations were followed by a tour of the farm discussing measures to support farmland bird populations through the actions in Countryside Stewardship and the Sustainable Farm Incentive.  

Along the boundary of the first field we visited, a group of overwintering Redwings and Fieldfares were using some of the trees in the hedge, feeding on the remaining berries as well as looking for worms and other insects on the ground. The sun was shining, and the good weather encouraged plenty of Skylarks to give their characteristic display flight, with their incredible song being the backdrop for much of the farm visit. The fields themselves were supporting a large group of Linnets, feeding on the ground and flitting up to rest in the hedgerow before moving on to the next area of field to forage in. This mobility allowed us to see their bouncy flight pattern and diagnostic brown and silver wing pattern which lets you identify them even in flight. 

Along a farm track, Peter Clifford, the farm manager, had been providing supplementary seeds which were being enjoyed by a flock of Chaffinches and even a Reed Bunting that had joined them for safety over winter. The last area of the farm we visited had a mixed group of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits looking for insects around standing water and we even managed to find some fresh Barn Owl pellets in one of the farm buildings along the way! 

To finish the day, participants enjoyed locally prepared pastries sourced from Eastington farm shop, whilst they discussed what was seen and future arrangements to carry out surveys. It was a fun and informative day for everyone involved! 

Here is our species list from the day:

Mute Swan – 2

Tufted Duck – 24 

Pheasant – 5 

Woodpigeon – 4 

Moorhen – 3 

Coot – 16 

Great Crested Grebe – 1 

Cormorant – 2 

Buzzard – 2 

Kestrel - 1 

Magpie – 3 

Jackdaw – 130 

Rook – 6 

Carrion Crow – 3 

Great Tit – 1 

Skylark – 9 

Long Tailed Tit – 2 

Starling – 52 

Redwing – 9 

Blackbird – 2 

Fieldfare – 4 

Robin – 2 

House Sparrow – 1 

Dunnock – 1 

Pied Wagtail – 16 

Meadow Pipit – 9 

Chaffinch – 11 

Greenfinch – 1 

Linnet – 80 

Goldfinch – 5 

Reed Bunting - 1