Posted on behalf of Emily Field, Project Manager - Stone-curlew UK (EU LIFE+)
Today’s guest blog comes from another of our stone-curlew heroes, Rachel Hosier, whose family has farmed near Stonehenge in Wiltshire for generations. 92 hectares of the farm is now an RSPB nature reserve through a land management agreement. Chalk downland has been restored, sheep grazing has been established across the site, and stone-curlew plots are cultivated and managed annually. The down is home to two breeding pairs of stone-curlews annually, and most years there are more than a dozen pairs of lapwings too.
Every autumn Rachel allows the RSPB to run tours for others to enjoy the spectacle of roosting flocks occasionally exceeding 50 birds. In 2013 we chose the roost on her farm as the perfect place to release a young lost stone-curlew which had been rehabilitated by a local rescue centre.
Rachel Hosier putting back two chicks that have just been colour ringed by RSPB stone-curlew project staff on her fallow plot. Image: Rachel Hosier
"My earliest memories of stone-curlews were as a young girl sitting in my father’s Land Rover while he checked the cows calving in the spring. I will never forget the sight of that strangely prehistoric looking bird with the eerie call. In those days, there were no schemes available to help these rare birds, but as my father was a great lover of wildlife we did what we could to help.
The introduction of agri-environment schemes with the added financial support has enabled us to do far more. Added to this, the greater understanding of the birds’ needs, coupled with monitoring, and we have seen a steady growth in the stone-curlew population over the years. Indeed, it is now at a level that we have become one of the autumn roosts. It’s a real “wow” factor seeing a group of 50 stone-curlews, and I am proud that we’ve been able to play our part in the success of the species.I am also thrilled that now my daughter comes out with me in the Land Rover when I am checking the cows at spring time and she too has an interest in this incredible bird.
It’s been very exciting to see the stone-curlews flourish on the four plots we have. I owe a lot to the stone-curlew as a species. If it wasn’t for the fact that they seem to love our farm we would certainly not have gone on to create RSPB Normanton Down nature reserve."
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