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Post Info TOPIC: Species in Focus - Curlew.

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Species in Focus - Curlew.

Curlews are primarily birds of the uplands and on any spring and early summer walk in such terrain, it is likely we will encounter the presence of this large and vocal species. It is thought that numbers may well have fallen since the time of our last atlas project. On the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) for England this species has shown a statistically significant decline of 27% for the period 1995 - 2008. For species such as this, with such an alarming downwards trend, it is even more important that we successfully map the locations of all of our breeding pairs for our current GM Breeding Birds Atlas project. At the end of the 2010 breeding season Curlew had been confirmed as a breeding species in 13 tetrads, which equates to 76% of the total number logged at the time of BBGM. The majority of confirmed breeding records on the database fell in to two categories. Firstly, birds were reported between 11th May and 27th June, giving distraction displays (code DD) to draw our attention away from their nests or young. Secondly, sightings of adults with dependent young (code FL) were logged between 31st May and 24th July.

So how best to go about confirming breeding for this species? Obviously those birders that regularly visit their local hills will soon become aware of territories that are occupied, by the frequency of repeat sightings of pairs of birds in the same locations. The likelihood of finding a sitting bird or eggs is fairly remote, especially so for those birders who are reluctant to wander off the beaten track. When encountering an agitated pair later in the breeding season it is then most likely that they will have young that they are trying to protect. Firstly, look out for adults giving distraction displays. Not entirely sure what that means? A simple explanation can be found here. Secondly, the young will probably remain still and/or hidden whilst the adults are alarm calling....so sit down (watch out for those sheep droppings!), try and get out of sight of the adults and let them calm down and when things have settled down a bit, then the self-feeding young are more likely to become active once again and hence more visible for us. Do not necessarily expect the young to be around the feet of, or close to either of the adult birds! As with other waders, agitated adult birds can quite often be some considerable distance apart and the young are usually somewhere (but not necessarily!) between the two. The young fledge sometime between 32 to 38 days after hatching, so there is a decent enough time span in which to try and catch sight of the young. Yes for sure, unless we are very lucky it will certainly take some of our time to confirm breeding. But that time and effort will undoubtedly be rewarded with the thrill and the pleasure we will gain from seeing, as yet flightless, young Curlews wandering through the upland vegetation. Whilst sat waiting and watching in lovely and possibly remote moorland scenery, who knows what else we may see?.........Skylarks or Meadow Pipits carrying food or a pair of Wheatears with young in tow! Sounds quite idyllic!!

Our upland areas are under threat of greater disturbance than ever before. Some of these threats are currently legal - wind farms, open access to hills and moorland areas - and some are illegal - off-roading and quad bikes, which rip up the habitat of this iconic wader. That's why if we are to have any chance to protect this species we need to know where our breeding Curlews are to be found.

This is the last summer we have to gather this vital information for our local atlas, so let's do our best to report territorial pairs or even better those pairs that successfully breed. As always, all records can be input at the usual BTO Atlas website.....and please don't forget to include those all important breeding codes!

Good luck and many thanks for your help.

-- Edited by Bill Myerscough on Monday 20th of June 2011 07:26:40 AM

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