Con­ser­va­tion push sees rise in curlew num­bers

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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