Frightening to think curlews are in such trouble. The UK’s population has halved since the mid-1990s, and this week speakers at a major conference dedicated to reversing the decline tell their curlew stories. Each day this week, we'll be sharing blogs from some of the speakers. Today's post is by Dr. Barry O'Donoghue, of Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service
The fact that curlews in Ireland have declined by 97 per cent since the late 1980s is staggering and shows the colossal task that faces Ireland as a country.
Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Direct loss of habitat through afforestation, wetland drainage and industrial turf cutting have impacted severely, along with associated repercussions for breeding productivity, particularly through predation.
Now is a pivotal time in the conservation of Ireland’s natural heritage. Many bird species, especially ground nesting birds like breeding waders, corncrakes and hen harriers will be lost as native Irish birds unless well intentioned and decisive action is delivered across the board.
Photo: Corncrake by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
There is a clear way forward, by all relevant parties working positively together in a way that makes sense for all parties.
Curlew breeding requirements are fairly well understood and the importance of agri-environmental grants is recognised as integral to farming family incomes on more marginal lands.
In addition, there is a great affinity or grá (an Irish Gaelic word that translates as love) for the curlew among people in Ireland, with various cultural and literary references. All this provides a good platform for collaboration.
Already there have been moves towards the appropriate targeting and resourcing of funds under the Rural Development Programme and National Exchequer and there are hopes for even more dedicated efforts, utilising the skills and resources of a range of different stakeholders from farmers to turf cutters to nest protection to ecologists and policy makers.
Photo 3: Curlew by Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)
It will be interesting to compare the situation for curlews in Ireland with that in the UK and to learn from one another and to realise synergies where possible.
Only 122 breeding pairs were recorded in the Irish Republic in a 2015/16 survey.
Frightening to think curlews are in such trouble. The UK’s population has halved since the mid-1990s, and this week speakers at a major conference dedicated to reversing the decline tell their curlew stories. Each day this week we'll be sharing some of the speakers blogs. Today's post is by Natalie Meyer, of Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU)...
There are between 3,700 and 5,000 breeding pairs of Eurasian curlews in Germany, which accounts for 0.3 to 0.7 per cent of the global population. Population trends here vary from steep declines to stable, depending on which of the Bundesländer (federal states) they are in and the protection effort undertaken. Declines seem to be caused mainly by too low reproduction, which itself is the result of intensive agriculture, habitat degradation and predation.
Since 2013 the Michael-Otto-Institute (NABU), supported by the Ministry of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Areas of Schleswig-Holstein (Germany’s most northern Bundesland), has been working on a protection plan, which aims to give us guidelines for managing curlew populations in conventionally used grassland.
The study population has approximately 90 breeding pairs in a lowland grassland area (Eider-Treene-Sorge-Niederung), farmed for dairy production. This population owes its relative stability to good co-operation between farmers and conservationists.
To improve the effort we do basic research, to close some knowledge gaps such as those on survival and return rates, habitat requirements and population dynamics.
For that purpose we are marking curlews with individual colouring combinations to gain information about the required breeding success to compensate for mortality – an important value to estimate in order to gauge the efficiency of protection measures.
Despite all these efforts reproduction rates remained quite low. Our first estimates highlighted high predation rates on clutches of eggs as a major reason, most probably caused by red foxes.
We tested a second measure to protect single nests from ground predators by fencing them off with electric fences. We tested the applicability and success of this method.
My talk at Slimbridge will focus on these two protection measures: (1) protection against intensive agricultural practices and (2) nest protection against ground predators.
More information, visit (in German): https://bergenhusen.nabu.de/forschung/wiesenvoegel/index.html