Red legged Partridge pair, evening light Alectoris rufa

Birds. Many of them are small, brown, fly around (fast), are shy, and change their feathers between seasons and as they get older. Often it is difficult to identify them and counting them can be a real challenge. Most of the information on our bird population comes from thousands of volunteers identifying and counting the birds in their gardens and local area.


The Bird Atlas is the result of the most comprehensive UK bird population survey and was published a few months ago by the British Trust for Ornithology. Between 2007 and 2011 local volunteers counted the birds in 1 Km squares for 2 hours, 4 times a year. I counted the birds in 8 squares over the 4 years in my part of Suffolk, and my results are included in the BTO Bird Atlas. My squares covered arable farmland, villages, some woodland and grassland.


To be blunt, trying to count birds on intensively farmed arable land was often a waste of time. An hours walking producing just a handful of birds. By far the best results were from the villages. It is here that I was able to fill my notebook with different species and significant numbers.


There is sometimes tension between game shooting and nature conservation. However, much of the habitat needed for game birds is the same as that needed for wild birds and other wildlife. One of the main reasons there are still woods and rough wild areas in the countryside is that landowners manage them for game birds. At the start of February the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust is asking farmers to count the birds on a part of their land for 30 minutes .


I will be helping Steve Honeywood survey the birds on his farm. It will be interesting to see if the results are better than I saw when counting for the BTO Bird Atlas on intensive farmland. I will give you the results when we have them.

Buzzard with an apple flying away? Buteo buteo

Buzzard flying with an apple. Halls Farm Norton