Bird Watching (UK) - - Species Curlews -

drainage, dif­fer­ent graz­ing pat­terns and plant­ing of forests for tim­ber, the land­scape now dis­ad­van­tages the Curlew. Curlews con­tinue to do well in some places, in­clud­ing some ar­eas man­aged for grouse shoot­ing. Here, Curlews ben­e­fit from some of the man­age­ment un­der­taken to boost grouse num­bers, es­pe­cially the le­gal con­trol of preda­tors such as Foxes and crows which are known to prey on their eggs. How­ever, the burn­ing of moor­land on deep peat soils to in­crease grouse pop­u­la­tions is hav­ing a wider detri­men­tal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact on other biodiversity, car­bon stor­age and wa­ter qual­ity. The RSPB has be­gun a five-year Curlew Re­cov­ery Pro­gramme, which in­cludes a trial man­age­ment el­e­ment that seeks to in­crease Curlew across six dif­fer­ent sites. The Curlew Trial Man­age­ment Project (TMP) is un­der­tak­ing vi­tal re­search to test whether a com­bi­na­tion of preda­tor con­trol and habi­tat man­age­ment can suc­cess­fully in­crease num­bers of Curlew on their breed­ing grounds. If this can be proven, a fund­ing pack­age for landowners to man­age suit­able habi­tats for Curlews would be de­vel­oped. At each of the six ar­eas, the RSPB is mon­i­tor­ing two sites each – one is the ‘trial’ site, where preda­tor con­trol and tar­geted habi­tat man­age­ment will take place, and the other is the ‘con­trol’, where land man­age­ment will con­tinue as be­fore, to act as a vi­tal com­par­i­son with the trial site.

Bet­ter habi­tat mix to help the Curlew

Through the in­tro­duc­tion of se­lec­tive veg­e­ta­tion cut­ting and live­stock graz­ing, the TMP will seek to cre­ate a bet­ter habi­tat mix that in­cludes suit­able ar­eas for nest­ing and feed­ing Curlew. Over the project’s life­time, RSPB staff will be present at each area from late March to early Septem­ber. They’ll mon­i­tor the birds, preda­tors and veg­e­ta­tion across each site, record­ing changes from year to year, and as­sess how birds are re­spond­ing to the man­age­ment put in place. It’s likely that a dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tion of man­age­ment will work in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. There will be some places where over­graz­ing has de­graded the mix of veg­e­ta­tion on the ground, and oth­ers where in­ap­pro­pri­ate land man­age­ment is ben­e­fit­ing the num­bers of preda­tors and these preda­tors are tak­ing high num­bers of eggs and chicks. Work­ing with landowners is ab­so­lutely vi­tal, giv­ing the Curlew as much us­able land as pos­si­ble. The plight of the Curlew of­fers a real op­por­tu­nity for con­ser­va­tion­ists and landowners to work to­gether to secure a bet­ter fu­ture for this fan­tas­tic bird, and some of the wild places these birds are to be found. What is cer­tain is that no one or­gan­i­sa­tion or landowner can tackle the press­ing pri­or­ity to re­verse the de­cline of the Curlew on their own. It must in­clude work­ing with peo­ple who own and man­age the vast swathes of land on which Curlews are still suc­cess­fully breed­ing. Con­ser­va­tion­ists at­tempt­ing to bring back a bird from the brink also need to con­sider all the tools avail­able to them, such as changes in land man­age­ment in­clud­ing drainage and graz­ing, and, as a last re­sort, re­duc­ing the im­pact of pre­da­tion on breed­ing Curlew. A fi­nal point on con­sid­er­ing con­ser­va­tion pri­or­i­ties – when we look at which threat­ened species to chan­nel re­sources into sav­ing, one cri­te­ria of­ten dis­cussed is ‘unique­ness’. If we lost this bird for good, would this mean there was noth­ing else like it on Earth? The an­swer could, in the not too dis­tant fu­ture, be yes. Only one of the world’s eight species of curlew is con­sid­ered to have a sta­ble pop­u­la­tion. Two are be­lieved to be ex­tinct. To­gether we need to find ways to make sure a sim­i­lar fate does not await our Curlew. Curlews can be seen around the UK coast­line, par­tic­u­larly at More­cambe Bay, the Sol­way Firth, the Wash, and the Dee, Sev­ern, Hum­ber and Thames es­tu­ar­ies. Great­est breed­ing num­bers are found in North Wales, the Pen­nines, the south­ern up­lands and east High­lands of Scot­land and the North­ern Isles.

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