Big Farmland Bird Count
The Big Farmland Bird Count will be held from 4th to 20th February this year. Organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Farmers Union of Wales, the event has been running since 2014 and last year 1,800 farmers took part recording more than 130 species across two and a half million acres. Not only is it a snapshot of bird species, numbers and range but, as each year passes, it gives more data on longer term trends. Farmers, gamekeepers and land managers are urged to take part.
Success at Loddington
Songbird numbers have increased significantly over the past thirty years at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s farm at Loddington in Leicestershire. Counts have been taken since the Allerton project began in 1992 when gamekeeper Malcolm Brockless introduced a regime of habitat management, winter feeding and predator control. The numbers of breeding songbirds doubled in the first seven years but dipped thereafter when many of the beneficial management practices were withdrawn. The latest figures for 2021 show a renewed increase to 191% above the 1992 base year.
Shoot Costs to Rise
As the shooting season ends, planning is already underway for the 2022/23 season. Following an increase in the price charged for shooting of around £2.50 to £38 per bird this season, further significant rises seem inevitable for next year. Substantial inflation in the cost of gas, labour and feed on game farms mean poults will cost more, perhaps 10% to around £4.50 per head. The same pressures will apply once the birds are released so that shoots may charge an average of £42 per pheasant shot in the coming season. Where VAT is applicable, the total cost will rise to over £50 per bird in the game cart.
Country Farms to Let
Following comments to the Oxford Farming Conference by George Eustice about revitalising the County Council farm tenancy scheme to encourage new entrants to farming, there are nine farms currently up for tender this spring. Cambridgeshire, the county with the largest farmland holding in England at more than 32,000 acres, has invited tenders for seven farms ranging from 165 to 370 acres whilst Powys has two farms to let. Although many county farms have been sold off over recent years, in England and Wales more than 270,000 acres of farmland are let by local authorities.