Breeding Bird Surveys in Wales – Curlews in Trouble

During 2015 BiOME completed a suite of breeding bird surveys in relation to a proposed wind farm development in mid-Wales. These surveys included Vantage Point surveys, Red Kite Milvus milvus surveys, Brown & Shepherd walkover surveys and a detailed programme of Curlew Numenius arquata surveys, which were a key consideration during the Environmental Impact Assessment. At this site up to three pairs of Curlew are known to have bred in the past, with nests typically in a mosaic of Heather Calluna spp. and grassland (‘Ffridd’; an important habitat type in Wales that is also under threat). However, in 2015 just one pair nested and although four eggs were laid, the nest failed early during the incubation process due to predation – a similar story to previous years of monitoring at this site.

The Curlew is one of the UKs most rapidly declining breeding bird species showing a 46% decline across the UK (1994-2010) with declines of 50% evident in Wales and Scotland. These declines have resulted in Curlew being upgraded to the Red List within the recently updated Birds of Conservation Concern 4. Consequently, the species is subject to ongoing studies with the aim of understanding the reasons for the decline. This includes national projects coordinated by the RSPB, an appeal by the BTO, and a local project on the Shropshire / Wales border. This latter project includes the use of camera traps to monitor nests and radio-tracking juveniles to try and determine breeding success – of 13 nests found in 2015 no young successfully fledged. A repeat of this project is planned for the 2016 breeding season, which BiOME intends to voluntarily support.

Photo: Curlew nest within Ffridd

Photo: Curlew nest within Ffridd

Photo: Curlew standing guard near nest location

Photo: Curlew standing guard near nest location