Farmers are being invited to count partridges the spring and autumn to gain a better understanding of the state of wildlife on their land.
The national Partridge Count Scheme is a voluntary, free to join scheme which asks farmers and landowners to spend a few hours counting wild grey partridges.
“Understanding how grey partridge are faring can give you a clearer picture of the health of your land,” says Neville Kingdon, who runs the scheme for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
“Our research shows that if partridges are thriving then other species will too.”
The grey partridge is considered a farmland biodiversity indicator species – it is barometer for wider farmland biodiversity.
Counts can also provide an early warning of a problem, enabling farmers and land managers to make necessary changes.
The Partridge Count Scheme has been keeping track of wild grey partridges on Britain’s farmland since 1933, but the species has suffered a sharp decline since the 1970s.
Every year volunteers are given guidance on how and when to count. The data they collect is submitted to the GWCT, helping their research.
In return they receive site-specific results which can help identify which factors might be limiting partridges on their land and inform their habitat management plans.
Future counts will then help to track the success of those measures, modifying them when needed and further encouraging land managers in their commitment to conservation.
“Those who manage the land are crucial, not just to how the partridge and other wildlife fare, but to understanding what is happening on a local and national level,” adds Mr Kingdon.
“We are looking for more volunteers because the more counts we get back, the more we can do to reverse the decline in this important bird species.”
Counts are carried out in the spring to measure breeding abundance and in the autumn to measure breeding success.
Farmers and landowners who have just a handful of partridges are being encouraged to sign up to the scheme.