Farmers have been encouraged to get involved in counting wild grey partridges on farmland as the species face an ongoing decline.
The Partridge Count Scheme (PCS) sees farmers, gamekeepers and landowners count for a few hours around dawn or dusk while birds are out of cover and feeding.
It is part of efforts to analyse the annual abundance and breeding success of grey partridges across the UK.
Grey partridges are quick to decline when things aren’t going well, and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), the group behind the scheme, say such counts are an 'early warning system' for the bird.
The co-ordinator of the PCS, Natalie Harvey, is calling on farmers to return their spring counts before it’s too late.
“I would strongly encourage those involved to take part in counting their pairs while there is still time this spring,” she said.
“Last year was a good breeding year overall and it was a relatively mild winter, so we are hoping that counters will see good numbers of partridge pairs. It is also just as important to let us know when you haven’t seen any partridges.”
For those taking part, PCS feedback and site-specific results for their land can help identify what might be limiting their partridges.
This can help inform decisions on habitat management provision that would benefit grey partridges and other wildlife.
Counting partridges quantifies what birds are on the ground, with successful measures being reflected in subsequent counts, encouraging landowners and managers to continue and increase their efforts.
Ms Harvey added: “The presence of grey partridge is a great barometer of wider farmland biodiversity, and where they are doing well due to successful management, so will many other species.
“Counts can be an early warning system for those who are in the position to make changes.”
The PCS is a free and voluntary scheme that began in 1933.