Posted on behalf of Emily Field, Project Manager - Stone-curlew UK (EU LIFE+) 

Next week we’ll be holding an evening reception to celebrate stone-curlew heroes as part of our international conference on achieving species recovery.

Through the next few days, we’ll be posting their stories to showcase the positive contribution farmers, gamekeepers and volunteers have made to securing the stone-curlew’s future. 

Stone-curlew. Image: Chris Knights (rspb-images.com)

The stone-curlew had declined by more than 85% between the 1930s and 1980s to under 150 pairs. A partnership between RSPB, Natural England and farmers funded by Action for Birds in England (AfBiE), helped reverse the decline and over the next 30 years the stone-curlew population recovered steadily, to around 400 pairs.

Stone-curlews nest on bare stony ground within short grassland or crops. Relying on camouflage for protection from predators, chicks freeze instead of running away when threatened, so eggs and chicks can be inadvertently destroyed by farm machinery. To solve this problem, for many years conservationists have gone out onto farms to find and mark nests within crops so they could be avoided.

In recent years, we’ve worked together to find more sustainable long term solutions, and the 2012-2017 EU LIFE funded project ‘Securing the stone-curlew’ has sought to increase the amount of safe nesting habitat available for stone-curlews to reduce the need for hands on intervention in crops. The main actions have been to:

1. Provide advice to landowners to Increase the number of fallow nest plots created using stewardship schemes within arable land

2. Provide advice to landowners help restore chalk grassland, grass heath and chalk downland to suitable conditions for stone-curlews, with plenty of bare ground for nesting and short grass for foraging.

3. Build up a team of volunteers who can help monitor stone-curlews, train farm staff to spot nesting pairs so they can be avoided, and raise awareness of stone-curlews in local communities.

The stories showcasing the many ways in which individuals have helped to save the stone-curlew for good will also be published in a booklet at the conference and will be downloadable as a PDF from the project webpage www.rspb.org.uk/securingthestonecurlew.

For more information about the conference itself, see our saving species blog

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