Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Curlew.

Curlew. Brian Rafferty.

I'm lucky enough to be amongst those who have heard the bubbling call of the Curlew when I've been on the moorlands of Bowland and beyond, a call which stays with you forever once heard. In the Curlews Latin name Numenius arquataNumenius means crescent moon which is the shape of the birds distinctive downturned bill. 

During the winter months, the Curlew can be seen feeding and roosting in large groups in nearby fields and the marshlands of coastal areas, and I got a phone call on Saturday to tell me my notes had been seen on Birds2blog about the numbers of Curlew seen recently in the Cockerham Sands area, with large numbers between 500 - 800 in three visits on and around the flood in the field immediately to the south of Cockerham Sands Country Park. But an impressive count was of at least 2,000 on the mudflats by the Cocker Channel which Brian Rafferty had seen and photographed for himself. 

Curlew. Cocker Channel. 2 Feb. Brian Rafferty.

A 'clik the pik' gives a bigger and better idea of the numbers in the image above, a clear indicator of how the wintering Curlew uses esturine and farmland habitats. 

But this example of the number of birds seen in our area on the Cocker Channel belies the fact that the Curlew is one of our most seriously declining breeding birds which has shown a 46% fall across the UK since the mid-1990's - 2010. The UK holds in excess of a quarter of the European breeding population, but the decline of the species has it listed as globally near-threatened, being one of the few British species on this list, but also on the UK conservation Red List. 

One of the possible reasons listed for this decline is changes in farming practices which has reduced habitat quality....well there's a surprise! But what must also be taken into account, is the amount of disturbance humans like the Commercial Mutt Minder I saw again at Cockersands last week, a mile or more out on to the sands with a dozen mutts unleashed and running wild, disturbing numbers of wildfowl and waders wintering as they do here. This person and his hounds all add to the problems on esturine ecosystems which are under ever increasing pressure from human activities, such as agricultural intensification and developments, another example of which is mechanised cockle dredging in some areas where the Curlew has responded with declines.

The BTO are planning a ground-breaking programme for research to try to understand what conservation actions are needed to help the Curlew recover from the decline. They recently sent me a begging letter for money to fund this programme. I felt an obligation to subscribe, so coughed some up.

Thanks to Brian Rafferty for his images of the Curlews, much appreciated Brian.


Derek Faulkner said...

You probably read the same BTO news item about Curlews as I did but while you cited a couple of your favourite knocking posts, farmers and dog walkers, as contributory reasons for their decline, you forgot to mention another reason mentioned by the BTO, predation.
At last, conservation groups are waking up to the fact that some predator controls are necessary to protect nests and chicks, something the shooting fraternity have been telling them for years.

Pete Woodruff said...

I probably read no such BTO news item Derek, and of course I mentioned Commercial Mutt Minders and agricultural practices (your dog walkers and farmers), and I didn't forget to mention anything said by the BTO, because I don't know what the BTO said about predation. As for your last comment re the shooting fraternity telling anyone for years about predator controls to protect nests and chicks, the same shooting fraternity seem to include Hen Harrier 'control' in their protection programme.

Good to see your comments again Derek, but I note you resisted any on my drawing attention to Dr Avery's recently failed Ban Driven Grouse Shooting petition for the second time, obviously the wrong road to go down to protect the Hen Harrier from the shooting fraternity you appear to fully support.

Derek Faulkner said...

I don't fully support the shooting fraternity Peter but do recognise that some of what they say and do does make perfect sense.
Two failed petitions by Mark Avery and now another set to fail, about lead shot, must show that the shooting/hunting fraternity are far better and active at supporting their interests than those involved in conservation. However, one question that does need asking is, if birds such as Woodcock, Grey Partridge and White-fronted Geese are now red listed why is it still possible to shoot them in un-limited numbers.

Pete Woodruff said...

Derek....I think you already know that I don't want - or allow even - Birdsblog to become a chat room and that's not because I don't want people like you to have your say, quite the contrary.

It would take me too long to reply to this one as fully as I would like to, but I'll answer the question re shooting your three named birds like this....The greater majority of those out to shoot birds don't give a 'rhymes with truck' about Red Lists, and I personally don't subscribe to the shooting fraternity being conservationist no more than I do Mark Avery being, so why do people like you ask this question in the first place.

Derek Faulkner said...

I know you normally restrict your blog to just your opinion that's why I rarely reply to your postings, and I know that we'll never agree on many things but I thought I'd chance an alternative opinion.

Pete Woodruff said...

Derek....You're getting things wrong too many times for my liking. My blog is not restricted to anything at all and certainly not restricted to my opinions. You've replied often for which I'm very grateful, it's the silent ones I don't like as you never get to know their opinion....if they have one.

Your visits to Birds2blog are most welcome, please continue.