MORE than 1,500 farmers across Britain overcame challenging conditions to make the 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) the biggest since it launched in 2014.

Farmers battled through the worst winter flooding in recent years to show they are not only at the frontline of the country’s food security, but also its conservation efforts.

Their dedication was rewarded as they recorded more than 120 species across 1.4 million acres in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) initiative this February.

As both storms Ciara and Dennis arrived on the weekends of the count, organisers took the step to extend the count window by a week in response to calls from hundreds of farmers who wanted to take part but could not do so.

The commitment of those counting at a time when tens of thousands of acres were left inundated with floodwater should not be overlooked.

An impressive 25 red-listed species were recorded, with nine featuring in the 25 most-commonly seen species.

Of these, fieldfares, starlings, linnets and lapwings were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded with over 67,000 in total, which equates to 24 per cent of all species spotted.

The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, black-headed gulls and rooks.

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Minette Batters praised the work of all involved.

He said: “Despite awful weather conditions throughout the count, including storms Ciara and Dennis, these figures represent a fantastic effort by farmers across the country who participated in record numbers.

“The BFBC is a great way for farmers to record the birdlife found on their farms. That is why I was really pleased the NFU could sponsor the initiative for a second year with so many different threatened species recorded such as lapwings and linnets.

“British farmers will continue to work around the clock to produce food for the nation, particularly during the current exceptional circumstances, and will continue to protect and enhance our iconic British countryside.”