Worcestershire Curlew nest

Nowadays most nesting Curlews in Worcestershire are found in the floodplain of the Severn and Avon, where they breed in hay meadows with a late hay cut, which generally allows them to bring off their chicks before the hay is brought in. But today’s floodplain nesters probably originated in the once more widespread birds nesting on higher agricultural pasture land, which in recent decades has been affected by agricultural change, and is now often given over to arable crops or to early-cut silage.

A few nesting Curlews still survive however on this higher ground (as on the Gloucestershire Cotswolds) and these are currently being given high priority by the Worcester Curlew Group, with the support of the West Midland Bird Club. Bob Green is the observer watching over one of the sites between the river valleys, where he first noted Curlews apparently preparing to breed in early April. He has been fortunate in being able to follow them during coronavirus lockdown as he lives nearby and can watch them as part of his permitted daily exercise.

Beyond the excitement of finding nesting Curlews came an interesting discovery: one of the birds was marked with colour rings – an orange ring on the right tibia, and a yellow ring with an inscription on the left tibia. For several days Bob fought with long grass and heat haze, trying to read the inscription, but the bird kept its distance. In the end he got a good view and read it as DB (reading down), which showed it was a bird ringed by Tony Cross in North Wales at a pre-season roost in March 2016, but never found there since. In fact it is hardly surprising that it was not found again in North Wales, since most of the birds there are local breeders, whereas this one must have dropped in while on its way from a coastal wintering ground to its breeding area in Worcestershire. (DB was ringed in the same site as the two birds currently starring on the Curlew Country nest camera – the male there is BI, while the female is ID. Just Google ‘Curlew Cam 2020’ to see them, their eggs should be hatching any day now).

DB settled down to nest, and Bob was successful in finding the nest, with four eggs. As at so many other sites, the land owner was very interested and supportive. On 31 May the nest hatched. Attached are Bob’s pictures of eggs and young. Still many dangers before the young grow big enough to fly; we hope to keep you posted.

And there is still more of interest to come from this site: there is at least one other pair, perhaps two, nesting nearby. And one of them is also colour-ringed, apparently also by Tony Cross, but Bob has not yet managed to read the ring. Watch this space!

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