Chris Bailey, Advisory Manager for RSPB Scotland tells us about some of the work happening in Scotland to secure the future for waders 

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 60% 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.

RSPB Scotland is working with over 500 farmers across Scotland on various projects which aim to help reverse these declines. Whilst delivering important work on our own reserves, there has been a real need to develop partnerships which allow us to work at landscape scale in partnership with other landowners, farmers and crofters. It is only by doing this will we gain the ability to reverse wader declines across the wider landscapes of Scotland.

Image: Curlew in flight (c) Jake Stephen (

Our work includes partnerships in Orkney, Shetland, Clyde Valley, Caithness, Strathspey, Glenlivet, Angus Glens and the Borders to name just a few. To get a flavour of the work we do with farmers I would encourage you to have a look at the RSPB YouTube channel which includes videos on our work with farmers to help waders in Orkney and the Clyde Valley, funded through the Northern Isles Landscape Partnership project. Other work we are undertaking is through the Curlew LIFE and Species on the Edge projects as well as providing advisory support to landowners who are applying for the agri-environment and climate scheme funded by Scottish Government.

Working for waders

At a national level the RSPB is a partner in the Working for Waders Initiative. Working for Waders aims to tackle the decline of wading birds across Scotland.  The partnership includes a wide range of organisations including organisations include NatureScot, 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.  There are also individuals involved, from farmers and conservationists to gamekeepers and birdwatchers.

The initiative aims to do three things:

  • Raise awareness of wader declines
  • Show that declines can be reversed
  • Demonstrate the importance of working in partnership

Wader week

The initiative ran a successful “Wader week” of communications from 6-12th May highlighting the perilous position of Scotland’s wading birds, urging the public to help. We were able to highlight some of the issues facing waders and our work through the initiative. During week we encouraged landowners to monitor the birds on their land by completing the Working for Waders and British Trust for Ornithology’s Wader Calendar or by taking part in the Working for Waders Nest Camera project. We hope to be able to collect more data from across projects in Scotland which could be used to increase the effectiveness of partner research and advice. More information, instructions and guidance on how to go about monitoring the birds on your farm or how to set up nest cameras can be found through on the Working for Waders website. The partnership has also collectively developed fieldwork guidance and grassland management targeted at farmers and landowners which are also on the website.

Communications throughout the week also focused on some of the Working for Waders funded projects. In Lanarkshire, the Clyde Valley Wader group (videos here and here) have allowed farmers to pioneer new conservation techniques which have shown a remarkable improvement in local lapwing numbers. Organisations like Working for Waders and RSPB Scotland have been on hand to fund and facilitate aspects of this work, but it has been largely driven by the enthusiasm of local farmers. Similar projects in Angus, the Borders and the Isle of Skye are gathering momentum, and there’s a real interest to learn from these farmer-led initiatives to support and encourage others to grow and expand as well.

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