With veganism, climate change and even lab-grown food all hot topics in the news, the public debate about the future of farming has intensified in recent weeks. Britain’s farmers are uniting to show that, as well as providing our nation’s food, they are also playing an important role in protecting wildlife.

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) is a national initiative for farmers to count the birds they see on their farm.

Last year more than 1,400 farmers took part.

More than 30 red-listed species, those with the highest level of conservation concern, were among the 140 different birds spotted.

These included fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows and yellowhammers – all of which were seen by more than 30 per cent of farms taking part.

The 2020 Big Farmland Bird Count will take place from February 7-16 and offers a simple way of recording the effect of conservation schemes put in place by farmers and gamekeepers.

Read more: Starling murmuration in Somerset records an estimated million birds

Introducing wild bird mixes and providing supplementary feeding both provide food through the leaner months of the year, supporting bird species when they need it most. By monitoring the positive impact, farmers feel a sense of reward and will share their success stories with others.

The results of the count are not just a celebration of the individual achievements of the hardworking farmers involved, they give an insight into where certain bird species might be thriving and where more work needs to be done.

This national picture also helps to show where subsidies and environmental schemes are succeeding and where improvements might be needed.

Dr Roger Draycott, head of advisory services for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), said: “Farmers have a vital role play to play in the future of many of our most cherished farmland bird species. As over 70 per cent of the UK is managed for agriculture farmers manage our largest songbird habitat, but their efforts to reverse bird declines are often unrecorded. We believe our Big Farmland Bird Count will help remedy this.

“It is also amazing what a difference knowing about the birdlife on your farm can make. By appreciating how small changes can bring about a real uplift in the number of birds, farmers we work with have found new enthusiasm for their work. That’s why we’re encouraging farmers who haven’t taken part before to give it a go and see what they find.”

To help those who are new to the count, GWCT provides free bird ID guides, spotter guides and profiles on the most commonly-seen species on the BFBC website (www.bfbc.org.uk).