Shropshire project: learning curve to save curlew
A memorable mid-summer’s evening walk on the Stiperstones was ultimately rewarded with the evocative call of curlews for members of the Shropshire branch of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
Led by Amanda Perkins of the Curlew Country Project, which is hosted by GWCT, and Austin Weldon, GWCT regional advisor, some 60 members walked and talked on the evening of 26 June, hearing about the work being undertaken by the project to engage farmers and improve the long-term survival of this red listed bird.
Within the scheme area, which encompasses farmland in west Shropshire, bordering Wales and including the Stiperstones and Corndon Hills, the curlew population has diminished by 30% in 11 years. This dramatic decline reflects the national and international picture.
Amanda Perkins said: “While our local curlew population is small, it is significant in comparison to elsewhere. This is the project’s fourth year and we are now working with around 60 farmers and land managers.”
In 2017, the Curlew Country Project’s interventions to reduce mammalian predators included electric fencing and fox control. This resulted in many more chicks hatching successfully, although the number of those that fledged was still very low.
Austin Weldon said: “When the chicks hatch, they leave the nest after only a couple of days, in search of insects and other invertebrates to eat and are very vulnerable to predation.
“We needed to do something more, so this season, we have been granted a licence to head-start curlew chicks, involving harvesting eggs from wild nests to incubate, and rear the resulting chicks that hatch until they are old enough to release into the wild. By harvesting from first clutch, birds naturally try for a second nest.”