Curlew Forum Meeting 24.03.21 (by Zoom)

Chair: Mike Smart
35 participants

ITEM 1: Curlew Recovery Partnership, Mary Colwell & Russ Wynn

  • Steering group of nine organisations in England: BTO, RSPB, GWCT, Bolton Castle Estate, Duchy of Cornwall, Curlew Country, Natural England, WWT, Curlew Action
  • Defra supplied £60,000 seed funding
  • Mary = Chair, Russ = Partnership Manager
  • Aim: to turn around the recovery of Curlews in England in ten years.
  • Everyone please join the network, contact Russ at:
  • Key aspect: maintain core populations in uplands. Lowland populations important for maintaining the range.
  • 30,000 pairs of Curlew in England, max. 50-60,000 pairs Curlews in UK.
  • Statements on contentious issues released soon
  • Predator control
  • Rewilding/ reforestation not generally good for Curlews

 ITEM 2: Use of Environmental Land Management Scheme for Curlews

  • Hopefully funding for early cutting of silage, maybe predator control, habitat management
  • Principally aimed at securing a better environment for biodiversity rather than specific species. Need to shout to get particular species included

ITEM 3: Curlew Action, Mary Colwell

  • Small charity with a focus on awareness raising and fundraising
  • Also focus on increasing education of natural history around the country
  • Supports the Toolkit

ITEM 4: Toolkit,  David Evans

  • Taken on by Curlew Recovery Partnership
  • Online resource for Curlew fieldworkers
  • Series of factsheets about e.g. radio tracking, nest finding, nest fencing etc
  • Launch on World Curlew Day 2021
  • Looking for more good quality fieldwork images
  • Possibility of publishing recommended survey techniques in advance.

ITEM 5: Head-starting – Geoff Hilton

  • 2019 head-starting project, Severn Vale
  • 50 young Curlews released in 2019 at Slimbridge – this year see if this has worked and whether birds return to breed
  • Are they alive?
  • Are they returning to Severn Vale?
  • Will they know how to nest successfully?
  • Survival: 1/3 confirmed alive so far (broadly in line with expected first year survival figures)
  • Return/ breeding success – we don’t know yet, but WWT Godwit head-starting project in Ouse Washes (a few years ahead of Curlew project) has positive results
  • No head-starting in Severn Vale in 2020.
  • Two head-starting projects delayed from 2020 are starting this year – eggs from military airfields
  • Dartmoor – good conditions for Curlews but population on last legs. Plan to release 25-30 Curlews
  • North Norfolk – recent habitat restoration but few Curlews
  • Head-starting for Curlews is still in trial phase
  • Estimated cost ~ £30,000 per year

ITEM 6: Workshops & trial survey methods/ monitoring, Geoff Hilton & Phil Sheldrake

  • Need standardisation of data collection, so data can be pooled
  • Workshop of wader monitoring specialists to find best approach – idea is that technique is scalable, so is useful for both low-funded and high-funded groups
  • Geoff & Phil to put heads together to work out if it is possible to put together a basic recording sheet this year
  • 2021 a year of development to standardise survey techniques and possibly roll out something across the entire country
  • Survey work should not be just about numbers, need to record the impact of intervention work
  • Wader information hub at BTO – central resource for wader data across UK

ITEM 7: Catching waders before breeding starts Mike Smart

  • Hard to catch – if anyone been successful with catching Curlews in mist nests at this time of year, would be good to get more guidance. Method used so far is putting up nets at night around roosts.
  • Sam Franks posted a video of successful daytime catching using a whoosh/clap net (to be posted on Curlew Forum website)

ITEM 8: Comments from local groups

  • Somerset, Damon Bridge
  • Testing on west Sedgemoor, temporary fencing 25m2 around ~ five nests
  • Fences removed after hatch, as most losses at egg stage. Compare outcome of fenced/ unfenced nests using cameras.
  • 50 pairs now, 35-40 pairs 20 years ago. Productivity sometimes zero
  • Fencing should have deterrents to stop crows landing on them and from identifying nests
  • Severn and Avon Vales, David Evans
  • Thermal drone surveys
  • Up to six GPS tags to be deployed on territorial breeding adults
  • Carrying on 2019 work
  • Worcester, Phil Hitchen
  • Success rate last two years = 0
  • Need professional support in this area. Not enough to rely on volunteers
  • Landowners – might cost £200-300 an acre to leave a patch around the nest site. A participant quoted £130 per acre to leave hay from 1 March to middle of July
  • Herefordshire, Chris Robinson
  • Last year 23 sites surveyed. Six fledglings from three sites. Four got to young stage.
  • Major predator: Corvids (carrion crows), not foxes.
  • 25 sites being surveyed this year
  • Aim to increase links with landowners – prepared to be flexible with hay cutting
  • No attempt at colour-ringing of young this year – chicks very difficult to locate in long grass
  • Experimenting with drone fitted with thermal imaging camera
  • Oxfordshire and Upper Thames David Wilding
  • Otmoor basin to continue fencing round nests with six strands of wire. Last year protected seven nests. Six nests hatched.
  • Some money from Natural England for nest cameras.
  • Trying colour-ringing of chicks
  • Upper Thames, five electric fence kits. Training session for volunteers on nest finding techniques by Zoom this week.
  • Curlew Country, Mary Colwell presented a note from Amanda Perkins (to be posted on Curlew Forum website)
  • In 2019, one head-started chick from 2017 was seen attempting to breed. Continuing with head-starting and nest fencing
  • Struggling for funding
  • Shropshire, Mary Colwell presented a note from Leo Smith (to be posted on Curlew Forum website).
  • In 2020 monitored 93-111 breeding pairs, only one confirmed chick. All lost to predation, before agricultural activities
  • High numbers of predators due to release of pheasants in area – 726,000 pheasants released in 2018 in Shropshire.
  • No predator control other than fencing, funding for more fencing this year
  • North Wilts, Jonny Cooper
  • Project started about two years ago. Five breeding pairs in core area.
  • This year plan to fence nests, some colour ringing. Survey areas outside the core area.
  • Working with landowners to leave areas uncut
  • Salisbury Plain, Phil Sheldrake
  • Survey since 2016
  • Phil no longer involved in the RSPB work, but intention this year to do some field work to monitor nests – monitoring for intervention where required. Liaise with farmers to delay cutting.
  • Not in a position to deploy nest fencing, on MoD land, but farmers can generally do so
  • New Forest, Andy Page
  • Monitoring since 2016
  • Consistent 45 pairs 2016-2020
  • Lots of visitors and predators
  • This year cameras on nests to see what is causing the predation
  • Difficult to get predator control support
  • Predator control on two key Curlew areas
  • 46 pairs in 2020, 16 pairs predated on eggs, three chicks fledged
  • Seasonal closure of car parks, signs asking people to leave some zones quiet
  • Breckland, Harry Ewing
  • 15 nests found last year. From May, daily observations of chicks to work out what habitat, vegetation structure they like – hoping to get more data and report next year
  • This year – monitoring breeding all the way through to fledging. Vary in breeding habitats – work out where they are doing well
  • This year – GPS tags on adult Curlews
  • New trapping method to catch pre-breeding (as illustrated by Sam Franks)
  • Chicks to be colour-ringed
  • Dartmoor, Jon Avon
  • Been monitoring for 16 years
  • Last few years max five adult birds
  • Curlew arrived on 18 March 2021, within 48 hours of expected date
  • Difficult to locate nests further into incubation because birds go quiet. Early part of season important for monitoring
  • Crows a big problem
  • Timing of Easter weekend is significant – if in third week of April then a problem because people out just as birds egg laying
  • If farmers due to cut a field – English Pointer dogs could rescue chicks before fields cut


Nest cameras – which models are the best? – feedback within the group would be useful. Contact: Curlew Country, Dave Evans

OUTPUT: page of guidance on recording needed by the end of the month

Any interesting pieces for Curlew Forum website ? Please forward to Mike Smart

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