Project Manager Amanda Perkins reflects on the ups and downs of 2018

Part 1

2018 begun with a move from the Landscape Partnership offices in Chirbury to the better-situated Natural England Offices at Rigmoreoak. The new office, although a bit cold in winter, offers the most spectacular views of our project area. It was difficult to say farewell to our old hosts and some great team members at the end of the Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS), however our ‘can-do’ project partners GWCT became supportive new hosts. In the move we suffered an unfortunate loss of project data, and although we have been trying to recover this we apologise to any people we have lost touch with due to this mishap. With the Heritage Lottery Fund and Natural England providing fresh funding for 2018, we were ready just in time for the start of the nesting season.

Following a long, cold winter, a much-shortened spring transitioned into a hot, dry summer. Although this meant curlew fed well prior to nesting, the strange weather conditions resulted in frenzied activities for farmers and the project team alike. The nest-finding conditions at the start of the season were ideal, and the team noticed previously unseen changes in territory and curlew pairs (usually faithful to both). Suspicions began to form that the ‘Beast from the East’ had sadly taken its toll.

Car problems hindered ornithological input at a crucial time. Most hire-car companies do not want cars doing what we put ours through and in the nest finding season there is no time to be buying cars. Farmers, volunteers, film-maker Billy and a trainee nest finder all helped to find nests. They supported project Ornithologist Tony, who persevered through the troubles to locate the most elusive curlew pairs and of course still found the majority of others.

Headstarting presented its own set of trials and tribulations. It quickly sank in that is would need considerable extra person hours to be successful. Keen new supporters arrived to add their efforts to the considerable existing voluntary input and we are forever grateful for this ongoing help and support. Our volunteers often seem to think we are mad when they see what we do, but for some reason this makes them even keener to help!

The stress of the unknown, albeit using best possible advice and resources, and responsibility for the incredibly precious eggs and chicks weighed heavily on us. Often, we spent long, exhausting and demanding hours providing almost 24-hour care requirements to young chicks. This was all made worthwhile when we could watch the chicks flapping their wings and snapping their bills in excitement in their outdoor pen.

The smell in the office was a side effect which we had not thought of. However, the (almost) unconditional patience and understanding of our landlords was most generous. They held meetings wanting clothes pegs on their noses and opened the fridge to find yet another escape of live invertebrate food rather than milk. (They will be pleased to hear that we are making fresh arrangements in the hope of surviving the coming season).

Just as we started to get into a routine, enjoying the peaceful morning light and spectacular sunsets when tending to the chicks, a national mealworm shortage brought fresh fears of being unable to feed chicks…

Check back soon for part 2!

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