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Helping Britain's Curlew population to grow


A conservation charity dedicated to improving Curlew breeding successes, the Curlew Recovery South Lakes, has warned that the wader’s numbers are in "catastrophic decline" in the area, which covers the southern area of the Lake District.


In an article in the North West Evening Mail, the group explained that the birds are failing to breed successfully due to predators such as foxes, badgers, and crows stealing eggs from the ground-nesting species.


In order to combat this, the charity are liaising with local farmers and setting up electric fences around curlew nests, in the hopes of preventing their eggs from being predated. So far this year volunteers have found 17 nests and fenced 11. However five nests were lost to predation before they could be fenced, and one was lost after fencing. The group relies entirely on volunteers, and is looking for more: they ask anyone interested in helping to email curlewrecoverysl@gmail.com.


Like those working on the Curlew Recovery South Lakes project, gamekeepers and many others who live in the uplands have long recognised the fact that predation is the main barrier to improving the fledging rates of not just curlew, but also many others ground-nesting bird species.


Apart from situations where volunteers are available to help protect nests – as in the case with the South Lakes – in the vast majority of cases it is gamekeepers who work to either deter predators or control their numbers, thus giving the chicks the best possible chance of fledging.


In some areas of the uplands, Curlew are doing so well thanks to the hard work of keepers that estates are now engaging in a Curlew 'headstarting' project. This involves collecting eggs under licence from North Yorkshire, before incubating them before hatching, rearing and then releasing them in Sussex. The hope is that the Eurasian Curlew population will flourish in Sussex in the same way that they are thriving in some parts of the uplands.

In other places, keepers and farmers are working together to protect Curlew; for example the image above shows a field where the silage has been mown sympathetically to protect a Curlew nest.


All of this work is carried out either through private funding or by volunteers; it involves no public spending whatsoever.

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