What are we doing and hope to do?

The UK Lowland Curlew Recovery Project Aims 

  • To recover the nationally significant curlew population in the Shropshire Hills and Welsh Marches, increasing range with funding and to meet demand.
  • Establish a sustainable lowland curlew population in the medium to long term. 
  • Work with partners to establish a strategy for UK Curlew Recovery.
  • Establish a workable model for every farmer with curlew on their land, to achieve breeding success.
  • Prove that the additional environmental benefits that will be achieved through managing for waders will deliver public goods at a reasonable cost.
  • Raise awareness of curlew needs among land managers (farmers, contractors, shoots, fox controllers and others) and deliver training where appropriate. 
  • Influence policy makers to provide adequate outcomes-based support for land managers supporting breeding waders. 
  • Work with other curlew groups outside moorland and upland areas to achieve similar sustainability for UK curlew populations.

What is needed now: 

  • Government help for farmers supporting breeding curlew and delivering a range of other environmental benefits through doing so.
  • Funding for predation control.
  • Saving the curlew population from extinction in the short-term through headstarting.
  • Research into longer term curlew population sustainability 

What has been achieved since the Curlew Country Project began in 2014: 

2014 – Planning  

Curlew Country was originally one of 15 projects that formed the Heritage Lottery funded, Stiperstones and Corndon Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS).   

The project designed for the LPS was about advising farmers on habitat management to improve success of breeding curlew.  Initial findings were that the original project design was unwelcome to farmers. They did not like the ‘top down’ approach and suggested that it was pointless doing anything about habitat management until predation control was taken seriously.  The farmers indicated that they were very keen to work with the ‘right’ people to support ground-nesting birds. 

A Project Advisory Group was set up to advise on technical issues and to help plan nest monitoring work on the ground.  Curlew Country asked farmers and land managers to become partners in the project and to help it discover the true causes of nest failure through nest monitoring. 

Funds were raised to employ an ornithologist, buy nest cameras and data loggers. 

 Summary of Findings 2014-9 

2015 Work starts  

  • Worked with farmers to form partnerships and a model with which they wanted to engage with.
  • Raised funds.
  • Over 13 nests closely monitored with nest cameras, data loggers and observation.
  • Engaged farm business manager to start assessing the true cost to farmers of supporting breeding curlew.

No monitored nests fledged any chicks.  All were lost and predation was the major cause. 

2016 

  • Supported colour ringing programme of migratory curlew connected to the project. 
  • Over 21 nests monitored closely and others observed.
  • Raised more funding.
  • Satellite tagged a migratory curlew to gain a more detailed picture of curlew movements during the nesting season and winter. 
  • Set up an online wader sighting recording system to provide a simple effective means of reporting casual sightings. 
  • Worked with a European partner to be the first to trial protective electric fencing on the UK mainland. 
  • Engaged new farming partners.
  • Satellite tagged two curlews at their migratory roost to learn more about their migratory habits.
  • Implemented a programme of community artwork including sculpture and writing workshops and the formation of a choir, to raise awareness and engage people in helping to save local curlew.

Three nests hatched out chicks, all of which were surrounded by protective electric fencing. All were subsequently lost to predation when they left the fenced area.

2017 

  • Used temporary protective electric fences on as many nests as possible.
  • Trialled predation control on three areas covering 3,500 ha in total.
  • Trained farmers, land managers, volunteers and representatives from other UK start up curlew projects.
  • Carried out close nest monitoring on as many nests as possible, but without cameras.
  • Following the issue of a licence from Natural England, trialled egg incubation to boost the numbers of chicks hatching and fledging (headstarting).
  • More farmers engaged.
  • More funding raised.
  • Training for local volunteer surveyors and representatives from other southern curlew projects as well as farmers and land managers.
  • Installation of a live stream ‘curlewcam’ raising local national and international interest.
  • Two new arts initiatives: A farming reminiscences project and A Case for Curlew.
  • Production of a ‘curlew observation’ training film in partnership with the BTO.
  • Started to analyse findings from farm business manager on cost to farmers of supporting breeding curlew.

A minimum of 3 chicks fledged from natural nests and 6 from headstarting activity.

2018 

  • The LPS came to an end and The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust took over as host.
  • The project focused on its pioneering headstarting activity, rearing and releasing 21 chicks back into their natural environment. 
  • Farmers in the Welsh area of the scheme developed the project work by entering into a new scheme to carry out a range of environmental measures using waders as indicators.
  • A number of new volunteers joined the project.
  • New farming and land managing partners joined the project.
  • Training, fundraising, pioneering, engagement and awareness raising all continued. 

You can find each years nest monitoring reports here. 

 

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