Immediate conservation action is vital if the evocative bubbling song of the Curlew is not to be lost from Shropshire forever. There is a real danger that breeding Curlews will become extinct here in the next few years.
Atlas work in 2008-13 did not find Curlews in 62% of the tetrads where it was found in 1985-90, a massive contraction of range. Over the same period, the population has declined by an estimated 77% in only 20 years, from around 700 pairs in 1990 to around 160 pairs in 2010.
Monitoring carried out by Community Wildlife Groups shows that numbers are still going down. Nest monitoring by the Stiperstones-Corndon Landscape Partnership Scheme in the County hotspot, with a quarter of the breeding pairs, found disastrous breeding seasons in 2015 and 2016, when apparently no young fledged. The decline continued in 2017, as summarised here.
Nationally, Curlew was added to the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern a year ago because of a decline of 62% since the 1960s. Internationally, the UK has a special responsibility for Curlew, as we have an estimated 28% of the European breeding population, with more in winter, and an estimated 19-27% of the world population.
Curlew is the highest bird conservation priority in the country
The ‘Save Our Curlews’ Campaign
Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) and SOS have established a long-term County-wide ‘Save Our Curlews’ campaign, funded by a joint appeal. It is being co-ordinated by SWT.
A multi-agency Shropshire Curlew Group, including SOS, has been set up to oversee the campaign. The Terms of Reference can be found here.
An outline strategy has been agreed, extending the strategy developed by the Upper Onny Wildlife Group through the Stiperstones-Corndon Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) and ‘rolling out’ the lessons across the County i.e. develop Community Wildlife Groups (CWGs) to survey areas that hold breeding Curlew, to identify nesting areas, and then work with the landowners and farmers to find and protect the nest, and assess the outcomes. This must start by working with landowners, finding and protecting nests and monitoring the behaviour of chicks through radio-tagging. Expert help must be bought in to do most of this, and make maximum benefit of volunteers’ time. The LPS finishes before the start of the 2018 breeding season, so carrying on with this important work will be the highest priority for the Campaign.
The Curlew breeding distribution map from the recent Atlas project has been used to identify the areas where CWGs are needed. Most Curlew hotspots are already covered, but two new ones are needed, to cover the area south of Oswestry, and the Severn-Vyrnwy Confluence. The campaign will work in cooperation with, and support, the existing CWGs as well as promote the two new ones.
The SWT/SOS ‘Save Our Curlews’ Appeal
A joint appeal has been launched to fund the campaign. The SOS Board has agreed to donate £2,500. The Board decision can be found here.
SOS members, and everyone else who wants to ensure that Curlews return here to breed, are also requested to donate.
- The appeal letter from the Presidents of the SWT and SOS is available by selecting this link.
- The form which you can print and fill in to make a donation, is here.
The Appeal is being administered by SWT, but will be accounted for separately. If you pay UK tax, please fill in the Gift Aid declaration. This enables SWT to re-claim the tax you’ve paid on the amount you donate, so each donation is increased by 25p in the £1.
Funds raised by the Upper Onny Wildlife Group (UOWG) Curlew Appeal (over £5,000) will be transferred to the SWT/SOS ‘Save Our Curlews’ Appeal
National conservation organisations are raising money for their own projects and priorities, but none of this money will be spent on saving Shropshire’s Curlews. The fate of the local population is in the hands of Shropshire’s people.
Please give generously to support long term action to reverse the decline of one of our most iconic local breeding species
Over 100 Curlews have been caught and colour-ringed by Tony Cross since 2015. If you see a Curlew, please check it for colour-rings. More details can be found here.
How you can help
SOS members, and anyone else interested in saving Curlews, would be very welcome in any CWG, and a big asset. Basically, you take on a survey square (a ‘tetrad’, a 2×2 kilometre square on the OS national grid – the same survey unit as the Bird Atlas), and walk round it three times on dates to suit you, around 1 April, 1 May and 15 June, for around 3 hours each visit.
The areas covered by the various CWGs, overlain on the Curlew distribution map from the 2008-13 County Bird Atlas, can be found here. Helpers would be especially welcome in the two areas where new CWGs will be launched in March 2018, to the south of Oswestry, and the Severn-Vyrnwy Confluence. Help with the organisation and recruiting new members would be especially welcome.
Continuing the work in the Stiperstones-Corndon area after the LPS finishes next March (2017 was the last LPS fieldwork season), and extending it to new areas, costs money, so please support the Appeal.
If anyone wants to help with Curlew monitoring work by the various Community Wildlife Groups, or locating nest sites, or setting up new CWGs early next year, or has any ideas about who we can approach for funding or how we can raise more money for Curlew conservation, please contact Leo Smith (contact details below).
In addition, records of Curlew territories elsewhere in the County are helpful. If you know of one, but haven’t reported it yet, please tell the County Bird Recorder or Leo Smith.
The SOS representative for the “Save Our Curlews” campaign is Leo Smith 01694 720296 (firstname.lastname@example.org).