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

Today’s guest blog from one of our stone-curlew heroes comes from Gerald Gray. Gerald has lived and worked on the same Norfolk estate for 26 years and has devoted a great deal of passion and energy into implementing conservation measures for stone-curlews and grey partridges.

The estate is owned by the van Cutsem family, and has a very high density of nesting stone-curlews. The shoot is managed in a sustainable way; boosting insect abundance and diversity for chick survival is a key focus, ensuring the success of ground nesting birds.

Gerald also goes the extra mile and will intervene wherever possible to ensure that stone-curlews are successful. This might include minimising disturbance near nesting birds and cultivating field corners to provide safe areas for chicks away from nearby farming operations.

Gerald Gray discussing stone-curlews on the estate with an RSPB fieldworker. Image: Ian Smith

"I am the head gamekeeper on a large estate in the Norfolk Brecks. The estate is managed as a successful farm business, a game shoot, and for the benefit of wildlife. It’s a great example of how all these interests can be integrated through good conservation management, to benefit stone-curlews and a diverse range of wildlife species, some of which are special to the Brecks.

The estate has 11 stone-curlew nesting plots in place, as well as a network of different types of field margins providing habitat for rare arable plants and a range of insects. In turn, these provide food for wild birds, game birds and benefit the surrounding crop.

Many of the habitats in place are managed under the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, including the nesting plots. Due to the combination of the HLS scheme, attentive conservation management and control of predators, we have had up to 43 breeding pairs of stone-curlews in recent years and regularly have higher than average chick survival.

Of course, none of this work could have taken place without the passion and commitment of the landowner and farming tenant, and their enthusiasm and commitment to diversification and species conservation. I find the way the estate and the RSPB work together to be a great experience as we are both pulling in exactly the same direction, attempting to provide countryside rich in farm wildlife that we can all enjoy."

Wide field margins and fallow areas create habitat for stone-curlews and other wildlife on the estate. Image: RSPB

  • Kathryn,

    Good to see one of many previously unsung conservation heroes in the farming and game-keeping sectors getting some long overdue recognition, and a bit of space to air his thoughts.  Well done for providing him with the opportunity and for supporting the estate over the years.  

    Wouldn't it be great if this collaborative spirit and level of mutual understanding could be rolled out across all farming and shoot-related operations - and not just where species of conservation concern are involved.  

    It's all about co-operation, mutual respect, and listening to practitioners on-the-ground, when agreeing what local prescriptions, treatments and interventions are the best in each individual situation.

    Good job!    

  • The great Dr Potts and the three legged stool (see final para habitat, predator control and food for chicks. Fail on any one of these and the wildlife you wish for will struggle.

    Conservation is all about human choices and more we can work together the better.