AHEAD of the fifth Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC), the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is offering a ‘fantastic’ opportunity for farmers to take part in a host of farmland bird identification workshops.

The ID workshops, which run across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, provide advice on birds that can be tricky to differentiate such as a Dunnock from a Tree sparrow.

Each workshop will be run by a farmland bird expert alongside a host farmer and, at the end of the day, participants will hopefully feel more confident in spotting the top 20 bird species likely to be seen on farmland over winter. These include some of the most iconic birds of the British countryside such as the Barn owl, Bullfinch, Lapwing, Grey partridge, Tree sparrow and Yellowhammer.

Jim Egan, founder of the BFBC and head of training and development at the GWCT’s Allerton Project in Loddington, says the identification days are invaluable preparation for the count itself.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for farmers to gain a better understanding of how to identify a range of farmland birds,” he said.

“The days are set-up across the country to provide lots of information on how to identify certain birds and what they can do in the future to preserve them.

“I would say to anyone thinking about taking part – do it. Get out and enjoy the birds on your farm and give us the opportunity to shout about the great work you’re doing.”

In addition, a colour ID guide is provided to those who attend, with a focus on birds that are harder to identify. The first ID day takes place on January 17 and they run for three weeks up until the start of the count which, this year, runs from Friday, February 9 to Sunday, February 18.

GWCT biodiversity officer, Peter Thompson, said: “It is vital that farmers and keepers start to consider the long-game by demonstrating more effectively what they are achieving.

“The BFBC is certainly one very positive way to do this and we’d also like to see people take part in ID days, which are crucial ahead of the count.”

Hundreds took part in last year’s ID days and there was lots of positive feedback with participants saying GWCT inspired them to take part in the count.

There are just 25 places available for each day, costing £10 per person which includes refreshments.

The ID days include: January 18 - Shropshire; January 23 - Herefordshire; February 7 - Powys.

n To view the locations in full, visit: www.gwct.org.uk/ BFBCID