Dust down your binoculars and start birdwatching as the Big Farmland Bird Count returns for its fifth year.

Farmers, land managers and gamekeepers in Dorset are being urged to take the opportunity to boast the bird variety on their farm and join in the count which is run annually by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

It is sponsored by BASF and delivered in partnership with FWAG Association and LEAF with support from the National Farmer's Union, CLA and Kings.

Last year, 970 farmers and keepers took part and recorded 112 species across 900,000 acres.

Founder Jim Egan said: "A great number of farmers and keepers are doing tremendous work to boost farmland birds and other wildlife.

"As well as planting seed mixes to provide winter feed, they also leave weedy stubbles over-winter, manage hedgerows so as to leave berries for food, and supplement this by putting out mixed seeds and grain on tracks and field margins."

He added: "However, not everyone appreciates the extent to which farmers and keepers are managing existing habitats and creating new ones specifically to help our farmland birds. Now is the time to change all that."

Jim is head of training and development at the GWCT’s Allerton Project, where research has identified how to bring bird numbers back on productive farmland. The number of birds present there has doubled after adapting a management system originally developed for gamebirds.

It takes just 30 minutes to take part in the count, and the Trust is hoping for a big turnout this year.

Mike Green, environmental and stewardship manager at main sponsor BASF said: “The Big Farmland Bird Count is a wonderful opportunity for citizen science being carried out by farmers to demonstrate the range of species that depend and live on British farmland during the winter months."

Guy Smith, vice president of NFU, said: “Farmers manage 70 per cent of our iconic landscape and are committed to the environment.

"This year’s Big Farmland Bird Count provides farmers with another great opportunity to show that we are fully engaged with conservation."

Last year, farmers and keepers recorded 22 Red List species including fieldfare, tree sparrow, starling, yellowhammer and song thrush. The count aims to help farmers and keepers build a record of birds on their farm so they can target their conservation work.

CLA vice president Mark Tufnell said: “Anyone who works on and cares for the land is vital in helping to ensure the future survival of many of the country’s most cherished farmland bird species."

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust.

This year's count will take place from Friday, February 9 to Sunday, February 18. Download a count sheet at gwct.org.uk/bfbc