World Curlew Day is tomorrow and the RSPB are celebrating! RSPB Scotland's Advisory Manager, Chris Bailey takes us through how a partnership initiative called Working for Waders is helping curlews. 

What Working for Waders are doing for curlew

The evocative call of the curlew has echoed across Scotland for generations, but these much-loved birds are at risk of being lost from our landscapes.  Since the mid-1990s, their numbers have dropped by 61% in Scotland and they are thought to be disappearing faster across the UK than anywhere else in the world. This trend is of great concern to the Scottish government, environmental organisations, landowners and land managers alike.

Scotland holds nearly 15% of the global breeding population of Eurasian curlew so has an international responsibility to act for the species. At a national level the RSPB are a partner in the Working For Waders Initiative (WfW).  This initiative, started in 2017, is built on the principles of collaboration and co-production as there was considerable consensus around the need to work together to address the decline of waders through a combination of habitat and predator management.

Working for Waders aims to tackle the decline of wading birds, which include curlew, across Scotland.  The partnership is open to anyone with an interest in waders and is currently supported by a wide range of organisations and individuals, from farmers and conservationists, to gamekeepers and birdwatchers. Partner organisations include Scottish Natural Heritage, British Trust for Ornithology, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Scottish Rural College, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Moorland Group, James Hutton Institute, The Heather Trust and Scottish Association for Field Sports. At the Curlew Conference in September 2018, it was agreed that Working for Waders would be the platform to support action for curlew across Scotland.

The initiative aims to do three things:

  1. Raise awareness of wader declines
  2. Show that declines can be reversed
  3. Demonstrate the importance of working in partnership

With funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, partners have worked together to agree a series of priority actions which are being developed and delivered over a two-year period.

Some of the actions prioritised identified were:

  • Provided funding for local advisory projects including RSPB’s work in Clyde Valley, East Scotland,  as well as curlew advisory work in Caithness. RSPB has several landscape-scale projects where we are working closely with farmers and landowners to improve the conservation status of waders. You can read more about the work in the Clyde Valley from an earlier blog written by Daniel Brown.  
  • Funding for a new website – bringing together information on the work of Working for Waders partners and projects as well as information on how to help individual species. More pages are being added to the website all the time, so development will continue over the next 12 months.
  • Development of best practice guidance – partners are working together to produce guidance documents which provide up to date information for landowners on how to manage their land for waders.
  • Identification of key wader hot spots – the partners have brought together monitoring data to help identify the key wader hot spots in Scotland. This is helping us to inform decisions about where we focus management and targeted future advisory effort.
  • The production of a new wader project map allowing us to collate information on all the key projects currently being undertaken across Scotland. Working for Waders want to be able to make sure that local action is recognised and provide a forum for sharing information across projects.
  • Development of fieldwork guidance – To help a wide variety of audiences select the most appropriate field methods for collecting information on wader numbers and productivity.

To review the progress of these and other actions, Working for Waders held a 'Taking the Initiative' event 12th March at Airth Castle Hotel.  With over 40 supporters taking part we were able to share experiences and challenges of on-ground delivery, identify priorities for future actions next year and opportunities to promote the Working for Waders messaging to landowners and the general public. The was general agreement that good progress has been made in delivering the actions but we urgently need to do more to see a change in fortunes of waders across Scotland.  Work continues to make this happen.

If you are interested in more information on the initiative in general, sign-up to the e-newsletter, see the progress on the various actions or are based in Scotland and want to get involved, please visit the website