NEWSLETTER 8 – DECEMBER 2019
The Curlew Forum Newsletter aims to connect and inform the various groups working on Curlews throughout lowland and southern Britain. Our website www.curlewcall.org has previous issues as well as useful information and literature.
Curlew Forum Mission Statement
(agreed at the 2018 meeting of the Curlew Forum)
“Our goal is to work with farmers and land managers to reverse the current decline, and continue monitoring the status, of breeding Curlew across lowland and southern Britain. We will do this by sharing knowledge and experience, raising awareness, offering advice, and securing funding to implement effective conservation measures”.
In this Newsletter
- Newsletter 8 presents a summary of discussions at the third annual meeting of the Curlew Forum, held at Slimbridge on 28 November 2019, where the main topics were a review of the 2019 Curlew breeding season in lowland England, and a discussion of the present and future operation of the Curlew Forum.
- Warning from the English south coast about an apparent decrease in numbers of wintering Curlews.
- A reminder about reporting colour-ringed juveniles from the Slimbridge and Shropshire head-starting operations.
Meetings of the Curlew Forum were held at Slimbridge in autumn 2017 and 2018 and, with the meeting on 28 November 2019, they have become an annual event. This year the meeting was on a larger scale, with 45 participants and 29 apologies, so a larger room had to be found, and the meeting was held in the Garden Room, the newly refurbished meeting centre in Sir Peters Scott’s old house at the headquarters of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, with Mary Colwell in the Chair.
The participants came from nearly all the local Curlew groups affiliated to the Forum: Berkshire Downs, Braydon Forest (North Wiltshire), Breckland, Dartmoor, Herefordshire, New Forest and The Solent, Salisbury Plain, Severn and Avon Vales in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, Shropshire (both Curlew Country and Shropshire Ornithological Society), Somerset Levels and Thames Valley in Oxfordshire. Participants from many organizations were also present: BTO, Natural England, National Trust, RSPB, WWT, not forgetting the farming community – Gloucestershire FWAG and individual farmers. The Forum was delighted to welcome participants from the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (the French BirdLife partner), from the Kildare branch of Birdwatch Ireland, and from BTO Wales.
It is planned to post a fuller account of the meeting on the Curlewcall website in due course, where possible with the texts of presentations. For the moment, this Newsletter offers a summary.
The 2019 Curlew breeding season in lowland England
- Once again (as in 2018), each local group sent a summary of the breeding Curlew situation in their area to Phil Sheldrake, who complied a summary covering practically the whole of lowland England. The total for 2018 (see Newsletter 7) was 258 pairs which made breeding attempts. The corresponding figure for 2019 was originally 443 pairs (with 96 additional pairs reported at the meeting, less 66 from the Lower Derwent Valley in Yorkshire); the resulting total of 473 pairs for lowland England absolutely does not represent an increase from 2018, simply better coverage, notably in Breckland, East Anglian airfields and Shropshire: Shropshire and Breckland are clearly two strong points of the lowland Curlew breeding population.
- Of the 377 monitored pairs, breeding was confirmed at 177, there were 165 probable, 30 possible and five non-breeding pairs. These figures reflect the use of traditional BTO nesting codes, where adults late in the season with anxious calls suggesting presence of chicks count only as probable if the chicks are not seen. After much discussion, it was agreed to maintain use of these traditional codes, so that comparisons can be made over a long period.
- One definite conclusion is that not enough Nest Record Cards are being completed for the species. Observers are encouraged to submit Nest Record Cards for 2019 to the BTO.
- Chick productivity remains desperately low: a long discussion of how best to calculate chick productivity reached the conclusion that the basic figure to be used in calculations is the number of adult females holding territory at the onset of the season (some of which may not even attempt to breed). The 189 nests monitored nests are known to have produced 42 chicks, a figure of only 0.27 chicks per pair, and this may be optimistic; the true figure, based on adult females early in the season, is probably nearer 0.13 chicks per pair.
- In any case chick productivity is far below the 0.5 chicks per pair (i.e. one chick every other year) required to sustain the breeding population. The breeding birds are clearly not producing enough fledged chicks.
Techniques for studying nesting Curlews
The meeting heard about several techniques for studying Curlews at the nest site:
Hyper-incubation: Russ Wynn and the New Forest team have for several years been using nest loggers (small thermometers pressed into the earth below a nest) to measure the temperature in Curlew nests, and thus to tell whether a nest is being incubated, and the precise time when a nest is predated. Russ spoke of a new behaviour which he baptised ‘hyper-incubation’. During a heavy thunderstorm lasting for more than an hour on 21 May 2018 over a part of the New Forest, the readings on several loggers shot up by two to four degrees Centigrade; this is interpreted as a reaction by the sitting bird, to protect the nest from damage by the heavy rain; the incubating adult sits even tighter, thus causing the temperature to rise sharply.
- Use of a drone to find nests: The WWT project in the Severn Vale used a drone, fitted with a heat-seeking camera, financed by the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society, in May 2019 in an attempt to find nests in the long grass in large hay fields. The drone, used at night to capture maximum difference between the ground and the body warmth of the sitting bird, appeared to pick out nesting birds, but a delay in reporting meant that the nests had been predated by the time the report was received. Definitely a technique worth further trial.
- Rope dragging for nests: This traditional technique (long rope with cans attached to it, dragged across nesting fields) has been used in the past in the Somerset Levels project, and was tried this year in Gloucestershire. Probably needs to be done early in the season (April) to be effective.
- GPS tags to track the movements of adult Curlews: Initiated in Wales in 2016, when three upland Curlews, tagged on the breeding ground, showed that nesting Curlews move far from their nesting area; these promising results led to another 17 adults being marked in three different breeding habitats in Wales in 2019. Similar studies have been initiated recently in the New Forest and the Solent, and give data on habitats used, brood range and where adults go when not tending chicks.
- Disturbance to Curlews’ nests: All researchers who visit nests for study or protection worry about whether their visits increase the likelihood of predation, by revealing nests to potential predators such as foxes or badgers. There was lively discussion of this topic: there is no detailed research to indicate the real effect of such visits; Curlew researchers need to reflect on whether a visit to a nest is really necessary before undertaking such visits. Observations from the New Forest suggest that sitting Curlews soon get used to passers-by (even with dogs), provided they keep to known routes and footpaths, and similar experiences are noted in Gloucestershire sites open to the public. Nest loggers do not in general reveal birds leaving nests for short periods (as might be expected if disturbance was affecting nests). On the other hand, there are some anecdotal indications that traps placed over nests to catch and ring adult Curlews may cause birds to desert, particularly early in the breeding season. In general, approaching a Curlew’s nest to protect it from animal predators by erecting an electric fence is a risk worth taking, given the poor chick productivity. The scent left by humans may even deter predators.
- Predation: The meeting discussed predation, clearly an issue with major impact on breeding success. Predation control is a difficult question for animal conservation bodies, who are loath to destroy naturally-occurring predators; one solution might be a scheme to authorise predator control by such bodies, with supervision from Natural England. But numbers of predators, especially foxes, in villages around breeding areas are very high, perhaps unnaturally so; released pheasants provide food for foxes, so that destruction of Curlew nests is just collateral damage.
- Tool-Kit: A Tool-Kit for Curlew field workers is being prepared by Dave Evans (WWT) and Wylie Horn (RSPB, Thames Valley). It will be a practical compilation, an aid to field workers, uniting in one place existing information and insights from lowland Curlew workers, who will be extensively consulted; the aim is to finalise a first version at a workshop in early 2020, so that it will be available for the 2020 field season.
Geoff Hilton presented an overview of the theory behind head-starting, then a review of head-starting projects in 2019.
- General background: Simple arithmetic shows that head-starting can increase productivity per female by several hundred percentage points. WWT has previous experience with head-starting other wader species (Spoon-billed Sandpipers for seven years and Black-tailed Godwits for three), but 2019 in the Severn Vale was the first year with Curlews. Curlew Country in Shropshire has practised head-starting of Curlews for some years, with support from WWT for the first time in 2019.
- Wider thinking on head-starting shows there are still many unknowns: how fit are young head-started Curlews? Is a head-started Curlew as good at being a wild bird as a wild-raised Curlew? Head-started birds receive a comfortable upbringing, and released birds are perhaps duds, so that effort invested may not be worthwhile; better perhaps to make it hard for them from the start? On the other hand, birds are given a real head start in life, and are in good physiological condition on release, so they can survive harder times.
- What sort of natal philopatry (return to the birthplace) will be seen? The aim in the Severn Vale is to boost the population across a wide area; in 2019 the head-started birds were all released at Slimbridge, and may all return to the release site; or they may return randomly across southern England. However there are good theoretical reasons to think they will spread across the Severn Vale.
- Head-starting is one way of dealing with low productivity; but others exist, e.g. nest fencing, predator control, persuading farmers to mow later; so head-starting is just a tool, to be weighed in terms of cost/benefit against other tools.
- Head-starting is difficult and expensive but, above all, a sticking plaster on a big problem. It is essential to have a Curlew Recovery Plan which goes beyond head-starting and defines actions to boost a population over a given time. Population modelling is needed to define what else is required: WWT insists modelling should be built into the licensing process and that permission for head-starting should not be given until a realistic Plan is in place.
- Operations in 2019: WWT works in a gold-plated way with expensive kit; during incubation and the first few days of chicks’ lives, they are indoors, with a heat lamp, so they keep warm; at five days they are taken outside to a bigger aviary, adapted from a polytunnel, using small shelters like dog kennels, still with heat lamps; the chicks are on a natural substrate, and gradually learn to become a foraging Curlew and look gratuitously cute; they are released from a different aviary with natural vegetation. In 2019 chicks were colour-ringed, but not GPS tagged, because of the difficulty of attaching tags to growing chicks.
- The Curlew County operation in Shropshire works slightly differently from Slimbridge because facilities had to be established rapidly; a stable was turned into a bio-secure rearing space without dodgy skirting boards where pathogens lurk; the aviary was predator-proofed by burying barriers well below ground level, with electric wires.
- Curlew Country took eggs from wild nests in their population of some 40 pairs; from 45 eggs, 33 fledglings were released, so productivity increased from 0.05 to 0.8 chicks per pair. At Slimbridge 62 eggs were taken, not from the local population, but from airfields in East Anglia, where eggs had been scheduled for destruction under licence to prevent airstrikes; 50 chicks were released into a population of 35 pairs, raising the productivity from 0.2 to 1.6 chicks per pair. Head-started chicks from Slimbridge have been monitored in the wild: 38 of the 50 have been resighted, mostly round Slimbridge, feeding on inland fields; some are moving down the Bristol Channel, the furthest so far in Newport Wetlands; a Shropshire head-stated bird has already been seen in Cornwall (see notes at the end of this Newsletter).
- Future plans: In 2020 WWT hopes to carry on in the Severn Vale, since head-starting is a multi-year effort. Two new projects are planned: in Norfolk the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust will lead a Natural England Nature Recovery Network project to restore a landscape between the Brecks and the coast, working with local farmers to restore habitat, using predator control and kick-starting the programme with head-started birds. On Dartmoor a recovery project will begin over a large area of central Dartmoor in habitat restoration with predator control.
“British Birds” Trust Fund
The journal “British Birds” has a Trust Fund which makes grants for fieldwork. Curlew workers may wish to apply for financial support for their projects from this fund.
Follow-up to The Downing Street Curlew summit in July 2019
Details of the Summit were given in Newsletter 7. It came about because Teresa May’s Environment Advisor, after reading Mary Colwell’s book, offered to organise a meeting on Curlews at Downing Street. The participants included Curlew Champions from the Welsh, Scottish and Westminster parliaments, ministries and national agencies, and several from Curlew Forum. The resulting Downing Street Summit document (published on the Curlewcall website) summarised current activities, highlighting the importance of advocacy and Citizen Science, alongside agri-environment schemes and predator control, and of ensuring these items were included in new Environmental Land Management measures (ELMs). The Curlew Forum discussed follow-up to the July summit.
- One concrete outcome was the Pensthorpe project (see above), with Curlew as the flagship species.
- Another important outcome was inclusion of Curlews on the political agenda.
- Needs-based project proposal: One possible format for future Curlew conservation schemes was outlined by Phil Sheldrake. This would be a scheme which interested farmers could join, focussing on the needs of the species and employing interventions to benefit Curlews. Farmers would subscribe, paying a peppercorn sum of perhaps fifty pounds per annum; in return for subscribing they would be guaranteed a Curlew survey of their farm by a field team who would survey and monitor any pairs found and intervene as appropriate (e.g. erecting electric fences round a nest, adaptive field management). Farmers would receive compensation from a supporting fund, financed centrally, or private innovative schemes. This would be a species-led project, under which the needs of the species would be met in season, thus differing from conventional habitat-led schemes. The scheme might operate through farmer clusters or through Facilitation Funds.
Curlews in Wales
- Conservation action in Wales: A presentation was submitted by Patrick Lindley, Senior Ornithologist with Natural Resources Wales (NRW). It noted that NRW had commissioned BTO Cymru to carry out a two year research programme; that Gylfinir Cymru/Curlew Wales, convened to set the strategic direction of Curlew conservation in Wales, was now firmly established, and that the conservation urgency of Curlew in Wales had been presented at two Ministerial Curlew round table discussions. A Welsh Government mandate will: be the first by a UK devolved Government to mandate a country specific Curlew Group; help with drawing down Welsh Government funding; and demonstrate political will and commitment. The next steps include: development of a costed Curlew recovery programme and strategic framework; and production of a paper on the multiple benefits of Curlew recovery.
- Research in Wales: Rachel Taylor of BTO Wales noted that tracking with radio tags had been piloted in Wales in 2016 when three breeding Curlews had been tagged in the uplands; 17 more breeding Curlews in three different landscapes were marked in 2019; the data produced was interesting enough for NRW to support further work in the next three breeding seasons. Even more important, NRW has funded proper analysis of the last four years’ tracking data, as well as analysis of BTO’s other data holdings (BBS, Atlases, spatial data at population level for Wales) and has asked for updated estimates of the breeding population in Wales, investigating not only changes in numbers but also changes in range. Wales is committed to maintaining range as well as numbers; it is unlikely this is being achieved anywhere in UK. She emphasized the importance of NRW’s support for this research, and of the role of the Curlew Champion in the Welsh Assembly.
- Current size and status of Welsh breeding Curlew population: Rachel said figures were subject to wide margins of error: one scenario led mathematically to extinction in 2027, another (perhaps closer to biological truth) to extinction in Wales in about 100 years, with the species not quite extinct, but not doing very well; the average figure indicates that Curlew would reach extinction in Wales in 2033; without intervention, there is no scenario where Curlew does not go extinct in Wales. At present there are probably just over a thousand pairs in Wales, mainly in the north, some in mid-Wales, progressively fewer to the south. Welsh Curlew are also getting older: ten years ago, the average age of birds retrapped in winter was six years; at present the average age is ten years.
Future of the Curlew Forum
From the Chair, Mary Colwell said the Steering Committee was keen to have the views of Forum members on the future of the Curlew Forum: where it was going, and how participants would like to see it contributing to Curlew conservation. She recalled that the Forum had come came into existence in 2017; it has no Constitution or Terms of Reference, though it does have a mission statement (on the website). The Steering Committee is informal and largely self-appointed. The Forum seems to have been successful: participants seem to think there is value in the exchange of ideas, information and lessons learned, but she asked for comments from the floor, pointing out that the Downing Street summit had called for a national secretariat for Curlew conservation.
- Geoff Hilton said WWT had joined the Forum in 2017, and would like to create a professional secretariat function; WWT does not mean to rebrand the Forum as the WWT Curlew Forum; what might work would be a part-time person based at Slimbridge, whose work programme and priorities would be set by the Steering Committee, but delivered by a person on the payroll of WWT. The aim would be to create greater capacity to share information.
- Russ Wynn saw the strength of the Forum as doing focussed local Research & Development projects which produced concrete results. If replicated across several areas, this made a stronger case with statutory bodies, who could be shown effective methodologies. He would like the Forum to continue what it was doing and felt – to general murmurs of approval from the participants – that those present shared this feeling. The Steering Committee had been present from the start; the WWT proposal was very clear and other NGOs were mature enough to appreciate this. The Forum should focus on research projects, on trial and error, which was its strength; the four members of the Steering Committee, plus perhaps a small secretariat at Slimbridge, should be the hub and the local groups would be nodes feeding information into the hub; it was important for each group to be independent, as each had its own way of working and collecting funds for operations; the hub could collect information and feed it into appropriate channels.
- Leo Smith and Peter Holmes commented that informality was a good way of proceeding: the hub was a centre for collation and dissemination of information, provided an umbrella for partners and contributors, and a whole series of projects had arisen in the last two years. The system traded on the goodwill of people and organizations, but informality was a strength, not a weakness. Geoff Hilton pointed out that the Steering Committee, as currently constituted, could not, on behalf of the Forum, make formal statements on such issues as predator control.
- Proposed WWT bid to National Lottery Heritage Fund (NHLF) for work on Curlews across lowland England: Geoff Hilton noted that WWT has wider aspirations to support the Forum and is in the early stages of applying for major funding (several million pounds) to NHLF to provide umbrella support for local hubs in the Forum, allowing them to test ideas on the ground, notably as regards agri-environment projects, monitoring or trials. If successful, funds will not be available until 2022 (though some seed money may be available by summer 2020).
- Links between the Curlew Forum and the UK & Ireland Curlew Action Group: The UK & Ireland Group came into being in late 2015, aiming to coordinate and share information on Curlews between the country agencies and major NGOs, with official Terms of Reference and Mission (currently under review). Geoff Hilton said there was currently little overlap, but overlap could arise. Peter Holmes recalled the Curlew Forum had come into being because the Group was doing little for lowland Curlews. Sam Franks agreed that it was essential to maintain not only the larger numbers in the uplands but also the broad range in the lowlands, as emphasized by David Stroud at the Curlewcall meeting in Slimbridge in 2017. Mike Smart thought the Curlew Forum was a ginger group that could prod other bodies into action, or get work done itself and demonstrate the results. Simon Barker said the two bodies were complementary and both were essential. Rachel Taylor said NRW was the active arm in Wales, with its own communications and meetings; the research being done by BTO aimed to address why Curlews had retreated from the lowlands. It was noted that in Ireland the problem was on lowland birds as there were few upland Curlews there. Russ Wynn said the value of the Forum was measured not in money, but in hours of fieldwork, quite different from the high level Group.
- Possible establishment of an Upland Curlew Forum: The Northern Upland Chain Nature Partnership is also making a bid to NHLF for work in upland habitats, notably Curlew habitat. Ian Proudler (via a telephone link) explained plans to develop a Curlew project covering five northern protected landscapes (Northumberland and Yorkshire Dales National Parks; and the North Pennines, Nidderdale and Forest of Bowland Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) covering 6,600 square kilometres, predominantly upland and in-bye farmland, thought to hold 39% of the England and Wales breeding population of Curlew. The project will survey and monitor Curlew populations using techniques like GPS tagging, with a wide group of volunteers and land managers. The project also aims to connect the uplands with the coastal environment, engaging communities in both habitats, linking conservation with upland management. A development day held on 7 November, with representatives of 35 organizations, drafted Heritage outcomes, to be submitted to the Northern Upland Chain Board and then forwarded to NHLF, hopefully leading to approval of an Expression of Interest by Christmas. The project was still fluid and in its early stages, possibly amounting to £4.8 million, and hoped to employ four or five Curlew specialists. He approved a coordinated approach between Curlew projects and invited comments and feedback.
- Curlewcall website: The Steering Committee drew the Forum’s attention to the Curlewcall website at curlewcall.org which is overseen on voluntary basis by a very competent webmaster, to whom the Forum’s thanks are due. The Committee invited participants to help keep the website alive and interesting by sending items for posting, however small, preferably with a picture, to Mike Smart, or to comment on the Feedback page.
- World Curlew Day in 2020: World Curlew Day is on 21 April. For 2020 individual groups are urged to organize an event, even just a walk to look at Curlews or a talk, and publicize any such events on the Curlewcall website.
Summing up the discussions, Mary Colwell said the Forum had a mandate to carry on as before, with some support from a small secretariat. She also noted that a new charity, Curlew Action, was being established, with the principal purpose of raising funds for Curlew projects.
International Curlew questions
- Suspension of French hunting season in 2019/20, and development of an Adaptive Hunting Management Process: Mary Colwell noted that this was a major issue for UK because some Curlews breeding in southern England winter in France. She noted that the Curlew Forum had earlier in the summer sent a letter on this subject to the French Ecology Minister, and that a note on the suspension of the hunting season had appeared in Newsletter 7. She thanked Gwenaël Quaintenne of Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (the BirdLife partner in France) for coming to address the meeting.
- Presentation by Gwenaël Quaintenne: Overall picture: the French open season for Curlew theoretically runs from 1 August to 31 January; a complete moratorium was in place from 2008 to 2011; this moratorium was maintained inland from 2012 but coastal shooting was permitted; an open season with a national bag limit of 6,000 birds was planned for 2019/20 season, but this was overturned by French Council of State (= Supreme Court), so there will be no more shooting this winter.
- The reason for the inland moratorium was to protect French breeding Curlews, but was ineffectual because 90% of wintering Curlews in France are on the coastline. The overall trend of wintering Curlew numbers in France is a gradual increase since 1980, with sharp increases in winters of 1982, 1987, 1997 and 2011 caused by the North Atlantic Oscillation (cold winters causing Curlews to move south and west along Atlantic coast). Every ten years the French National Hunting and Wildlife Office conducts a questionnaire on hunting bags; the latest in 2013/14 gave 6,961 Curlews shot, but the accuracy of the figures is doubtful and the real figure may be between 4,394 and 9,529. The main hunting area is along the coastline, particularly the English Channel and Atlantic Coast round La Rochelle. Long term figures suggest a decline in hunting pressure, caused mainly by a decrease in the popularity of hunting, especially among young people. The peak Curlew hunting period is August/September with another peak in December, though data are meagre.
- The AEWA (Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Waterbirds) International Single Species Action Plan for Curlew states any harvest must be sustainable, so in July 2018 the International Wader Study Group asked AEWA to undertake an Implementation Review Process. The French Government set up an Adaptive Management Expert Council (CEGA), which recommended in March 2019 not to authorize an open season for Curlew ‘until significant knowledge gaps had been addressed’; these gaps are: the origin of wintering birds; adult and juvenile survival; recruitment; and whether differing populations are involved. The hunters’ arguments in favour of a hunting season are: mortality is not additive to, but compensatory for, natural mortality; wintering French Curlews come from the ‘inexhaustible Russian stock’; most shot birds are juveniles, which has less impact on the population. No evidence is adduced to support these assumptions.
- Curlews GPS-tagged in winter on the French Atlantic Coast come largely from Finland, Belarus and Russia; but ringing recoveries show (despite bias in ringing effort) that chicks from Fennoscandia, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands and UK also winter in France. This constitutes non-compliance with Article 7.1 of the EU Birds Directive which states: “Member States shall ensure that the hunting of these species (i.e. listed in Annex II) does not jeopardise conservation efforts in their distribution area.” For this reason LPO has submitted a complaint to the European Commission about hunting of Curlew (and also Turtle Dove).
- Following the Council of State’s decision to suspend the hunting season for Curlew in winter 2019/20, an ‘Adaptive Hunting Management Plan’ (AHM) for Curlew is to be established in France. Hitherto no AHMs have been developed in France for any species. The ambitious AHM timetable envisages programme being ready for adoption in June 2021; it is to be funded by France, probably from hunting sources.
Other International Curlew issues
- Curlew Forum letter on French hunting season: The participants expressed approval of the Steering Committee’s action in writing to the French Ministry of Ecology about the effect of the French hunting season on Curlews.
- Meeting in eastern Europe to investigate status of breeding Curlews: Participants approved future action by the Steering Committee to investigate the status of eastern breeding Curlews: were their numbers really ‘inexhaustible’? Was it true, as advanced by French hunters and scientists, that there was no decline in the east? The best way to find answers would be to organise a meeting of Curlew experts in eastern Europe, possibly Belarus (for visa and hard currency reasons), as suggested by Polish IWSG colleagues.
- Review of International Waterbird Census counts of wintering Curlews: In similar vein, the International Waterbird Census (IWC) suggests (counterintuitively) that numbers of wintering Curlews are not decreasing, but increasing, along the West Atlantic flyway. SOVON (the Netherlands opposite number to BTO) plays a major part in analysis of IWC data but is unable to confirm without further research (which would need funding), whether the population really is increasing. Participants approved further action by the Steering Committee to press for this research to be carried out.
Decrease in wintering Curlews on the south coast
At the Curlew Forum meeting in Slimbridge, Peter Potts drew attention (in addition to his comments on breeding Curlews in the New Forest which often fly the short distance to the coast on The Solent during the breeding season) to decreases in numbers of wintering birds on The Solent, and in other wintering areas along the south coast of England. He pointed out that wintering Curlews feed not only on coastal mudflats, but on grass fields inland. He drew attention to the loss of such habitats in the area of Southampton and Portsmouth, many of which were being developed for house building, with a lack of mitigation measures to provide alternative feeding areas (always supposing that Curlews – birds of fixed habit – would use ‘alternative’ areas). See his paper in the Hampshire Ornithological Society Annual Report 2018 on Movements of GPS-tracked Curlews (PDF).
This is clearly an area needing much further investigation in lowland England – undoubtedly using the resources of the Wetland Bird Survey data on the BTO website.
Appeal for sightings of head-started juvenile Curlews
The poster below has been posted in many observation hides at WWT and other reserves on the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel. Please continue to look out for Slimbridge-ringed juveniles and report them (even if you can’t read the numbers on the rings).
And head-started birds from Shropshire too!
A Seasonal End to the year for Curlew Country – The first sighting of one of this year’s head-started chicks has been reported. The chick was foraging naturally on the coast in Cornwall.