Curlew, a Near Threatened species, are a major feature of The Wash where they occur in nationally important numbers. They are declining throughout their range and, in the UK: the 25-year (to winter 2019–20) population trend for Curlew is -33% and the 10 year -18%. We see them feeding on both the tidal mudflats and on the inland fields, where they eat earthworms.Continue Reading →
Curlew are declining so alarmingly that they are now ‘Red-Listed’ as birds of conservation concern. The Wash is one of the two main UK sites for both passage and wintering Eurasian Curlew (the other being Morecambe Bay – WeBS data). Autumn passage birds use the intertidal mudflats to feed on polychaete worms, shellfish and Green Crabs. Some birds will move on to smaller sites around the Norfolk coast, the southwest of England, and northwest France. Here they will spend the winter before returning to their breeding grounds. The majority of Curlew using the Wash breed in Finland and Sweden, a migratory journey of over 1,000 miles. There is more background information on our Curlew page.Continue Reading →
Curlew use the Wash both as a passage site to moult during autumn and as a wintering location. On a global scale, they are ‘Near Threatened’ i.e. vulnerable to extinction and they are present in Internationally important numbers on the Wash. Declines in the UK breeding population have placed Curlew in the highest category of UK bird conservation concern; therefore, the species is a priority for the group in terms of long-term conservation monitoring. We started to mark a proportion of the population on the eastern shore of the Wash with unique leg flags in 2012. This allows us to accurately determine their survival and assess wintering habitat use.
Since then, a total of 478 birds have been marked and we have had over 5,000 re-encounters recorded by over 200 WWRG volunteers and members of the public. We regularly dedicate fieldwork hours to ensure we have sufficient resightings to determine survival and winter distribution. This steady stream of data has started to be used in scientific publications to describe the east Wash Curlew population. This blog is a summary of what we have learnt so far.Continue Reading →
Plan for the weekend
This was always going to be a challenging weekend! We had a number of targets and hoped to achieve some of them. The weather forecast was for it to be mild, with light winds, but foggy nights and early mornings.
We had arranged for BBC AutumnWatch to come out and film our work but they could only make the Saturday morning. We had still failed to catch a single Curlew on our east shore study area and had ten GPS/GSM tags to deploy. This is the single largest expenditure on a project that the group had made (£12,000) in its 60-year history so we did not want to have to leave them in a box until next year. We then had an Oystercatcher tag that had already been on two Oystercatchers and had just been found on a beach after the silicone harness had broken (as they are meant to do).Continue Reading →
Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.
I’ve been born, and once is enough.
Although not involved in bird study, these lines from T. S. Eliot encapsulate our current studies of wader populations on The Wash. Bird populations are sustained by recruitment of fledged young into the adult population at an equal rate to the death of individual adults. More recruitment than deaths equals more birds. Unfortunately, the opposite is currently occurring in Eurasian Curlew, which is experiencing population decline. This could be due to not enough chicks being raised to adulthood from each nesting attempt, or alternatively, it could be due to increased death of adult birds. Knowing which factor is more important allows conservation efforts to be prioritised: do we need to protect Curlew nests to improve chick survival or do we need to enhance protection of wintering Curlew to improve adult survival? A recently published paper has explored one part of the equation – survival in Curlew – using data from The Wash, as well as other wader ringers around Britain and Ireland.Continue Reading →