Progress of the nesting season in the New Forest, April 2018

Having gone through all of the available data with Andy Page as of 29 April we are confident that we again have a total of about 40 Curlew territories currently occupied in the New Forest. Thanks to everyone who has provided updates so far, and spare a thought for our Curlews in the current unseasonal conditions!

Andy has found three nests in the last couple of days and there have been several reports of settled birds displaying pre-nesting behaviour, so we have now prepared six pairs of temperature loggers (nests + controls) for deployment in the coming days. Please keep your sightings coming, especially if you have settled birds that you suspect may be nesting. However, do not enter likely breeding areas, but instead watch from as far away as possible, and look out for 1) birds acting aggressively towards potential threats, particularly Carrion Crows, 2) birds giving repeated ‘mewing’ calls from areas of suitable breeding habitat, 3) birds copulating, parallel running, and tossing bits of grass in the air, and 4) single off-duty birds acting as ‘look-outs’ from elevated viewpoints, especially in areas where a pair of birds have regularly been seen previously.

All or any of the above are likely to occur in close proximity to nest sites. Note that Curlews can spot you from a surprisingly long way away and will adapt their behaviour as a result, in order to protect the location of the nest. So avoid lingering too near to a bird that has seen you or that appears to be acting strangely. Once you have pinned down a likely nest site let me know asap, so I can alert Andy and he can get the loggers placed in and adjacent to the nest (when the site is clear of potential predators and people). I will also pass on your details to Andy if you would like to accompany him while he deploys the loggers.

Curlew PR has ramped up following World Curlew Day on 21 April, on which date I presented the results of our survey work to the New Forest Association AGM (the NFA are sponsoring the nest temperature loggers). We also did some filming with Countryfile on Thursday morning, which will hopefully be screened on 13 May – the groundwork done by Andrew Colenutt ensured we were able to show them a pair of Curlews at Holm Hill that were displaying pre-nesting behaviour, although they weren’t early enough to catch the pair copulating and mobbing nearby Carrion Crows.

It’s good to see the New Forest National Park Authority engaging with our surveyors and accompanying them on site visits to ensure they can target areas with active nests (see below):

“This morning I was joined by one of the NPA’s seasonal assistant rangers who are doing engagement work with the public to promote awareness of ground-nesting birds. This follows an approach from Craig Daters, who asked if the seasonal staff could shadow me going to check for Curlew as part of the survey. I have agreed to go out a further twice in the next few days, with the other two NPA seasonal rangers.”

In other news, we have Redshank at two sites in the southeast of the NF, and Wryneck and White Stork have been found alongside pairs of Curlews this week. There may be more surprises to come as the weather improves later this week, so please take advantage of the long weekend to check your sites and try and pin down any potential nest sites.

Russ Wynn

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