This year’s President of the Suffolk Show and the county’s most senior Church of England Bishop has been given a fascinating insight into conservation and wild bird life on the county’s farms.
Bishop Martin, the 2024 Suffolk Show President-Elect, was a guest at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe, near Stowmarket, yesterday (February 2). The Barker family, who run the farm, launched this year’s Big Farmland Bird Count. The first such counting of wild birds was held at the farm in 2014.
Now an annual event, the aim is for thousands of farmers and land managers across the UK to spend 30 minutes in the first two weeks of February to observe the wild birds that flock to their land. Last year more than 19,000 birds from 100 different species were spotted at 93 counts in Suffolk.
The event is organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and sponsored by the National Farmer’s Union (NFU).
Bishop Martin said: ‘‘I started as bishop here back in 2015 and ever since then I have been keen to support all the good work that our farmers do in our county, including the ways in which they care for our precious natural environment. Patrick Barker’s experience and knowledge shone through as I learnt more about birds, winter feeding, habitat improvement and even about moths. I came away seeing once again that a farmer’s day is never finished – and that in Suffolk we owe so much to our farmers who strive on our behalf to put food on our table and are the custodians of the countryside.’’
Dr Roger Draycott, Director of Advisory and Education at GWCT, led a walk for up to 50 people on the farm.
He said: ‘‘The bird count provides a snapshot of the UK's farmland bird population and helps us spot any trends in the abundance of certain species. Farmland birds have declined by 63% since 1970 and one in four of the UK’s bird species is in serious trouble. We will not halt the alarming declines of species such as curlew and skylarks if we leave it to nature reserves and national parks alone. With 72% of the UK's land area used for agriculture, biodiversity recovery must take place alongside sustainable production. The key players in achieving this are those looking after this land. Last year more than 1,700 farms took part and together they recorded more than 460,000 birds of 149 different species.’’
Woodpigeon, Linnet, Rook, Lapwing and Yellowhammer were the most popular in the county during 2023.
Find out more about the Big Farm Bird Count click here.