CURLEW IN ACTION
of the site in 2011, it was clear that years of overgrazing by hundreds (thousands at one point) of sheep was causing a major issue. The animals had removed all the heather in some areas, and Purple Moor Grass, unpalatable to sheep, had taken over. The dense growth of this grass meant that no other plants could get a hold, and large sections were unsuitable for nesting. The vegetation was simply too dense to support breeding Curlew. So, working with local farmers, the sheep were removed and replaced with a smaller number of traditional breeds of cattle. The management team have cut a mosaic of patches through the vegetation, giving the cows a head start on eating, and breaking up the Purple Moor Grass. The Partnership re-wetted dried out bogs and mires by blocking drainage ditches, allowing the growth of sphagnum moss, which helped further diversify the vegetation, creating an open structure perfect for Curlew chicks. Heather has begun to return and, since 2011, Curlew pairs had increased from 17 to 24, with evidence of successful fledging of chicks. The Eastern Moors team placed nest cameras on five Curlew nests in 2015 and were rewarded with successful hatching of all of the nests.
In other parts of the country, an additional problem for the Curlew is the high levels of predation by Foxes, crows, Stoats and Weasels. But Curlews and the animals predating their young are all native UK species, so why is this a problem now? There’s a phenomenon known as the ‘edge effect’, where the border between two habitat types has an impact on what happens in those areas. In the uplands, the increase of commercial conifer forests has broken up moorland areas. Those forests support populations of predators, which come out on to the moorland to hunt. Trees on the borders of moorlands or wetlands provide perching places for Carrion or Hooded Crows, which will be looking out for wader eggs and chicks. These changes to the landscape now put predators in the midst of Curlew habitats. Plus, the patchy nature of suitable Curlew habitat may also be an advantage to predators, who are able to select and remain in those small areas where waders are nesting. So, as a result of changes in land management, Small fluffy Curlews haven’t yet got the tools to feed like adults! The Curlew is comfortably our largest wader, with a bill to probe deeper than any other
The Partnership re-wetted dried out bogs and mires by blocking drainage ditches, allowing the growth of sphagnum moss, which helped further diversify the vegetation, creating an open structure perfect for Curlew chicks BABIES FROM EGGS