The RSPB‘s unsung regular army of volunteer birdwatchers, who have walked the equivalent of 5½ times around the Earth since 1999, enjoyed novel sightings on farms in 2010. Their end-of-year tally includes common cranes in East Anglia, cirl buntings in the South-West and a corncrake in Scotland, plus a green parrot in the North, six ring ouzels, a Montagu’s harrier and even an escaped turkey living wild. Most encouragingly, they saw swallows, which are amber-listed and not doing well in Continental Europe, on 95% of the 683 farms surveyed-Britain’s predominantly open livestock pasture may be a favourable factor. The song thrush was the next most observed bird, on 79% of farms, and, pleasingly, the skylark came third (74%), good Two cirl buntings, one green parrot-and a turkey news for the farming world, which often shoulders the blame for the decline in such ground-nesting birds.

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Jenny Atkins, who manages the Volunteer & Farmer Alliance (V&FA), says: ‘It’s excellent news, as the skylark is a species we are particularly concerned about. We have been working with farmers to reverse its decline, especially on arable land, where small plots of fallow ground within crops can make a huge difference.’ The V&FA needs more recruits; telephone 01767 680551 or email v&fa@rspb.org.uk