Conservation push sees rise in curlew numbers
CURLEWS are back on song across Scotland’s grouse moors, as Scottish gamekeepers report a rise in sightings across the country.
The curlew is Europe’s largest wading bird, instantly recognisable by their long down- curved bill, brown plumage, long spindly legs and distinctive call from which it derives its name.
Its population has declined in recent years due to a loss of suitable breeding habitats, which has been put down to more intensive agricultural methods, climate change and predation. Last year it was deemed ‘ at risk’ and placed on the British Trust for Ornithology’s red list as a species of ‘highest conservation concern’.
Since then gamekeepers supported by the Gift of Grouse campaign, which aims to highlight the benefits of grouse shooting on employment and ecology, have made a push in wader conservation, and setting the ground-work for a nationwide scientific study of moorland waders in 2017. One such effort is creating suitable breeding habitats on managed grouse moors by controlled heather burning, or ‘muirburn’, which creates micro habitats suited to grouse and other ground-nesting birds like the curlew.
Observation counts conducted across Scotland’s regional moorland groups this year have raised hopes of a good season for curlew.
Kevin Dickie, gamekeeper at Lochan Estate in Perthshire, said: ‘ We recorded a total of 45 breeding pairs of curlew on just one of the three beats on the estate which is part of the Tayside and Central Moorland Group.
‘This is a dense population for an area of moorland that totals around 3,000 acres and in my opinion demonstrates that given the correct habitat, we should hopefully see an increase in wader numbers on Scottish moorlands if efforts continue.’
Hopes have been raised over curlew numbers.