Once common in Shropshire, curlew numbers have declined by 77% in 20 years.
Our joint Curlew Appeal with Shropshire Ornithological Society has been running for over a year now. The work has focussed on nest protection and tagging of young curlew chicks in Clun Forest and Clee Hills. It also facilitated the launch of two new Community Groups to estimate curlew numbers in the Severn Vyrnwy floodplain and in the Morda area of Oswestry.
Funds raised previously covered the costs to:
The funds were used to pay experienced field staff to locate nesting curlew in the two areas, electric fencing to protect nests from mammalian and avian predators and radio tags and rings to track chick progress to the stage of fledging in order to measure breeding success.
With the cooperation of the landowners and the skill of the field workers, 3 curlew nests in the Clun Forest and 3 nests in the Clee Hills were found and fenced. Most nests contained clutches of 4 eggs, with the exception of one nest in the Clee Hills which had 5 eggs.
In the Clee Hills 9 chicks were tagged, thought sadly four chicks were lost very soon after due to a combination of dehydration and lack of food at the nest site. Three eggs were also damaged at one nest site despite the fencing, and it is presumed this may have been due to crows, or other avian predator.
By mid-June attention was switched to radio-tracking work. This was not an easy task as the chicks would disperse over a large area, but gradually it became clear from either a lack of signal or finding remains of chicks, that mortality rates were very high.
In the Clee Hills, by the end of July one chick had definitely fledged and probably a second chick had also fledged. From 6 nests containing a total of 25 eggs over the two project areas, it is thought only 2 curlew chicks fledged successfully.
These results back evidence from the work of Curlew Country in the Shropshire and Welsh Marches area over the last 3 years with the inference that without nest protection, possibly none of the curlew chicks may have fledged this year.
Work on the joint Curlew Appeal will carry on for a second year to continue nest protection work and get a better understanding of what happens to the curlew chicks when they leave the nest. It may help us gain insight into which species of predator is having the most effect on curlew.
We would also like to support the work of the Curlew Country project and their ‘Headstarting’ work (details of which can be found on the Curlew Country website), in particular helping to fund the assistant headstarter/communications officer.
What is a curlew?
The curlew is Britain's largest wading bird. They are associated with the upland moors, meadows and lowland food-plains. They are distinguished by their long bill, which can grow over 20cm long and is used to feed on worms hidden well below the surface. Their haunting call was once a common sound in the Shropshire Hills, but is becoming a increasingly uncommon sound.
Why are they disappearing?
There are a number of reasons: habitat changes such as a loss of wet grassland and intensive farming have had an impact on curlews across the UK. But even in environment-friendly rural property, increasing numbers of predators are also impacting breeding success.
What can be done to save them?
Shropshire Wildlife Trust is now fundraising to help curlews in key areas in the Clee Hills, the Clun Forest, the Stretton Hills, Oswestry Hills and the north Shropshire Mosses through the work of Curlew Country. Improving habitat is key in ensuring that these unique wading birds do not disappear from the Shropshire landscape completely.
Please use the form below to make a donation to this exciting initiative.
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