Positive signs for curlew restoration at the Rare Upland Birds Project in Elan Valley - Natural Resources Wales

Copyright Mike Hammett
Copyright Mike Hammett

Positive changes are underway for curlew conservation in the Elenydd Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Elan Valley, thanks to the Rare Upland Birds Project.

With resources from Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) Biodiversity Funds for Ecosystem Resilience (BERF) and Heritage Lottery, and the Nature Recovery Fund, the project is run as part of the Elan Links scheme. It works to turn the trend on the decline of this important species, with positive results for this nesting season. Five more nests were located compared to only one in previous years, and at least two more adult pairs were recorded in the valley, but it is likely there were more.

The Eurasian Curlew is currently one of the highest bird conservation priorities in Wales, with an estimated 90% loss of curlew since 1993, at a rate of 6% every year, leaving around 400 to 1,700 breeding pairs. It is listed as a rare upland bird, along with Red Grouse and Golden plover.

With the extra funding from NRW’s BERF, Heritage Lottery and Nature Recovery Fund, the project focussed on landscape heritage to improve the management of bogs and cattle-grazed areas that provide the right mix of conditions to attract curlew to nest. It also increased its monitoring capacity and nest protection practices, which gave a better understanding of how many curlew use and breed in the Elenydd, and provided better protection for established nests.

Eluned Lewis, Elan Links Scheme Manager, said: “The results during this year’s nesting season are looking positive so far, with a comprehensive attempt to identify all nest sites. We have been able to provide a good mix of cattle-grazed areas and improved bogs, which are so important to attract the curlew here, and for them to be able to feed and breed. Monitoring the curlew can be quite tricky. They can nest in dense Molinia grass and so can be hard to find, needing specialist knowledge to spot them. We were able to invest more in monitoring this year, so we could better protect the nests we found from predators. Even so, while protecting the nests lets eggs hatch, chicks are still vulnerable to predators like foxes and monitoring becomes difficult as the chicks are well camouflaged in the dense vegetation. There is still more work to be done, but we’re seeing definite signs that things are on the up and we have successes to build on. Tenants and farmers from the surrounding areas have also been really helpful in letting us know where they’re seeing the curlew, and it’s causing quite a buzz in the community. The tenant in the Important Upland Bird Area (IUBA) in the valley has been actively involved in locating and protecting nests”.

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Posted On: 14/07/2022

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