The efforts of Bisterne Estate in recovering their breeding lapwing (or pee-wit) was given national acclaim this month, with a “highly commended” ranking at the annual Purdey Awards for Game and Conservation, hosted by His Grace the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House in London.
The 4,000-acre Hampshire estate is a partner in the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s LIFE+ Waders for Real project, an EU-funded programme involving scientists, farmers and the local community working together to reverse the decline of breeding waders in the Avon Valley. Since 2015 they have seen annual productivity increase from 0.49 to 0.80 lapwing chicks fledged per pair (lapwing need to produce 0.7 chicks per pair to maintain a stable population). In plain words, that means the lapwing population is self-sustaining at Bisterne. The fact that the estate is bucking the national trend with a growing population of breeding lapwings is a real team effort, but starts with three people intent on making it a haven for waders.
Hallam Mills, whose family have owned the land since 1792, has a passion for making Bisterne a conservation hotspot and has long subscribed to Higher Tier Stewardship. He encourages everyone involved in managing the estate to do so with conservation in mind. Martin Button, the Arable and Environmental Manager, has implemented conservation measures, resulting in good quality water meadow habitat, the right meadow grass length, nectar and pollen mixes, and improved soil quality. The success of their wading birds has been driven by gamekeeper Rupert Brewer, who having seen lapwing decline nationally by over 80% since 1960, was given the chance to do something about it, which he grabbed with both hands!