Farmers and volunteers on rescue mission for nesting curlews

Farmers and volunteers on rescue mission for nesting curlews

Urgent action is being taken to save curlews in South Lakeland

Curlew numbers are falling so fast in the valleys of South Lakeland that they may disappear altogether. Their future as a breeding bird is on a knife edge so Morecambe Bay Partnership volunteers and farmers have stepped in on a mission to protect their nests. 

Curlews are our largest wading birds with a distinctive long, curved bill and are much loved for their evocative and haunting cry. They were once very common countryside birds but now they are an endangered species with 30% of their population being lost in the last decade. Curlews nest on the ground so eggs and chicks can be easily eaten by predators or accidentally crushed so every nest is critical to their survival. Many curlew pairs have been failing to fledge chicks for several years in a row, which means that curlew numbers are plummeting.

Working together with local farmers, the volunteers have identified a handful of nest sites to protect the precious eggs from destruction. To help the curlews protect their brood from badgers and foxes, they have been installing electric fences around a broad area of the fields where they are nesting. 

Amy Hopley, the Partnership’s Nature and Wildlife Officer said “The protected nests are now beginning to hatch, and the chicks must avoid both predators and farm machinery for the next 5 weeks until they can fly. Each chick fledged is a ray of hope for the future of curlews but they are not out of the woods yet”.

Susannah Bleakley, Chief Executive of the Partnership said, “The farmers have been amazing – they have been so accommodating to help the breeding curlews.  And it has made a real difference.  This year we know that 6 chicks have hatched and there are more nests that we are watching that are still incubating.  The farmers are the heroes in this conservation story.”

One of the nests has a remote camera to watch the progress of one the curlew families.  You can see some of the adorable pictures of chicks and fascinating insights into the domestic life of a curlew family on twitter at @_MBay

If you'd like to help, there's still time to donate to the curlew fundraising campaign.