Breeding Curlews in the Lower Derwent Valley

Until now, most of the Curlew Forum’s activities in England have related to smallish pockets of breeding birds in the lowlands of southern England – at sites such as the Somerset Levels, The Thames Valley, the New Forest, the Severn and Avon Vales.  Our most northerly contacts in England (though we have also had contacts further north in Ireland and Wales and are soon venturing into lowland Scotland) have been in Shropshire. There are however breeding populations in northern England too, and they are facing similar problems to the breeding birds of the southern lowlands: one such case is the Lower Derwent Valley in Yorkshire, as explained below by the Craig Ralston, the Senior Reserve Manager at the Lower Derwent Valley, Skipwith Common, Forge Valley Woods and Duncombe Park National Nature Reserves (NNRs). It’s clear that control of land use over a large area leads to positive results for breeding Curlews and other nesting waders.

Lower Derwent Valley

“Our Curlew population seems to be holding its own – about 60 pairs, with further pairs scattered around the surrounding landscape off the protected site. They seem to have had a really productive year after a late start – we found almost 20 clutches whilst out and about doing other things and have seen a similar number of broods – often fledging three young this year.  We’ve managed to ring several, and our later broods seem to have been helped by slowing the hay cut down through Corncrake-friendly mowing – in part for Corncrakes but we have now introduced that across the board for our licences. Also, delaying the hay cut until 1 August in Corncrake plots also seemed to help some of the later broods, as did our efforts to really control Carrion Crow numbers early in the season.  The last young fledged at the end of July/early August.

We’ve been trying to help our breeding waders across the board – putting in more seasonal scrapes, managing tree and willow scrub cover back to the edges of the site and crow/mink control.  Although our Redshank population is still struggling, Lapwing and Snipe numbers have responded well. We are also targeting agri-environment around and surrounding the NNR, particularly for breeding waders and have done some nice grassland reversion based on research of the spring staging Whimbrel and their feeding requirements linked to soil type. So, all in all, it’s a bit more of a positive story from here – but as ever we need to be ahead of the game to keep it that way and hopefully use output from here to boost other areas”.

Further information on the NNR is available on the following sites:

Twitter: @LDV_NNR

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