Farmers and gamekeepers are being urged to record the birds on their land as part of the first annual Big Farmland Bird Count.

Run by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the aim is to see how farmland bird species are faring and to highlight the conservation work being undertaken on farmland, such as supplementary feeding or growing wild bird seed crops, which currently goes unrecorded.

The count will take place between the February 1 and 7, with participants encouraged to spend about 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of the farm.

A pilot scheme last year took in more than 10,000 hectares across 30 farms nationally and recorded 69 species, from tree sparrows and yellowhammer to barn owls, kestrels and buzzards.

Farmers are able to choose their own location, but somewhere with a good view of around two hectares of the farm is recommended as ideal.

They will be asked to record the types of habitat and cropping on and adjacent to the count site.

Counting should ideally take place at first light, as this is when the birds are most active, but it is more important to simply take part.

Count sheets can be downloaded online via the Trust’s website and then either emailed or posted back up until the end of February.

Those without access to a computer can call Morag Walker on 01425 651000.

Jim Egan, head of development and training at the Trust’s Allerton Project, said: “Farmers and gamekeepers are vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of our most cherished farmland bird species such as skylark, yellowhammer, corn buntings and wild grey partridges.

“They are responsible for managing the largest songbird habitat in this country on their land but frequently their efforts to reverse bird declines are largely unrecorded. We believe our Big Farmland Bird Count will help remedy this, particularly as our earlier pilot count showed such encouraging results. ”