Call of the curlew

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

WITH­OUT ur­gent ac­tion, curlews could be lost as a breed­ing species in south­ern Eng­land within a gen­er­a­tion, says the RSPB. A con­fer­ence was held last week, or­gan­ised by Curlew Me­dia, the Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Wild­fowl & Wet­lands Trust, to dis­cuss what can be done.

The bird’s breed­ing pop­u­la­tion in Scot­land de­clined by 55% be­tween 1995 and 2013 and in Eng­land by 32%. The curlew is so rare in Wales and North­ern Ire­land that trends can’t be cal­cu­lated. In the Republic of Ire­land, there are thought to be barely more than 120 breed­ing pairs.

The loss of hay mead­ows and wet grass­land have been a key threat in the south­ern parts of the UK; good nest­ing habi­tat in up­land ar­eas has also come un­der pressure. Over­all, in re­cent years, the curlew’s breed­ing range in the UK has de­creased by about 17%. Fur­ther­more, a quar­ter of the world’s breed­ing curlews come from the UK and the bird is clas­si­fied as ‘near threat­ened’ by the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture. It’s the only ‘near threat­ened’ species of which the UK has a sub­stan­tial part of the global breed­ing pop­u­la­tion. ‘This lovely bird and its evoca­tive call are wo­ven into the lives of peo­ple,’ says or­gan­iser Mary Col­well. ‘They are part of who we are.’ Con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer Phil Shel­drake adds: ‘We’ve turned around the for­tunes of other birds, such as cirl buntings and stone curlews, in south­ern Eng­land and we can do the same for the curlew.’ The plan at the mo­ment is to explore habi­tat man­age­ment and preda­tor con­trol in cer­tain ar­eas. Visit www.rspb.org.uk for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

Stamp Duty wind­fall

THE 3% Stamp Duty (SDLT) sur­charge in­tro­duced in April has made al­most twice as much for the Gov­ern­ment than ex­pected, says HMRC. The to­tal for the year—£1.19 bil­lion, £962 mil­lion of which came be­tween June and De­cem­ber—is be­ing la­belled a ‘wind­fall’.

Al­most a quar­ter of UK house buy­ers are af­fected by the hike, which was in­tro­duced to dampen the buy-to-let sec­tor and thus help first-time buy­ers. How­ever, although it has cer­tainly pro­vided the Trea­sury with a big­ger pot, the prob­lem of ‘sig­nif­i­cant cash in­vest­ment in buy-to-let’, says Sav­ills’s Lu­cian Cook, means that only about a fifth of ad­di­tional prop­er­ties sold dur­ing the pe­riod were bought with a mort­gage.

Nick Leem­ing, chair­man of Jack­son­stops & Staff, com­ments: ‘The data sug­gests that buy-to-let in­vestors are not be­ing de­terred. We will see the true im­pact of this pol­icy in time, but my fear is that ad­di­tional costs will be passed on to ten­ants.’

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