As we enter autumn after the summer break, it seems the world is in a different place than we were even in the spring. No one can deny the rapid pace of global change: climate emergencies in many countries, the changing shape of the pandemic, and distressing scenes of political turmoil have dominated the summer news. Such big events seem remote from the nitty-gritty of conservation on the ground, the day-to-day work of protecting endangered species like Curlew. It may seem small beer compared to the tumult of global news, but it is all part of one picture.
We know curlews are sensitive to climate change, habitat loss and predation (see link here), we have known this for some time, but their interrelation is increasingly clear in today’s world. Climate change is not only changing the temperature of uplands, food availability, and affecting coastlines and wetlands, it is also driving a dramatic increase in forestry. Tree planting is seen as part of the solution to the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and many areas of rough grassland and wet meadow are being planted. Some is with native trees, but a lot of land is also earmarked for industrial-scale silviculture to provide timber for the increasing demand for housing and cardboard. Habitat loss is also a major concern in areas marked for development and housing. 300,000 homes are being built each year until the mid 2020s, which will inevitably have knock-on effects beyond the actual ground being built upon. Disturbance, access, leisure activities, roads, service amenities, dog-walking, all increase with human presence. For a sensitive bird like Curlew, this can be a tipping point. The pandemic kept many people away from fieldwork and we are only, slowly, getting back to ‘normal’ but there are reports of lost opportunities to protect nests and monitor important populations. It all seems big, messy and overwhelming. So, what to do?
The Curlew Recovery Partnership will soon be launching its workplan for the coming months and years. After a series of workshops across the country, which garnered the views of the Curlew community, we are finalising how to put Curlew conservation into action. We will be posting details of this very soon and will welcome your involvement. Suffice to say it will include guidelines and support for fieldwork, workshops, political action and research. By working alongside the governments’ ambitious new plans for agriculture and nature recovery, we will be cooperating across the board. There is a lot of positive, practical action to be done. All these activities will not only boost the fortunes of a beleaguered bird, they will be helping so many other species too. Curlew conservation is not just about Curlews, it can’t be. By restoring habitat, protecting nests and chicks, enhancing invertebrate biomass, re-wetting land, connecting landscapes, and many other Curlew-related activities, we will be creating a land fit for nature. This will help Curlews, but it will also add to our own sense of progress – small, important steps towards making the world a better place.
Confident, Constructive, Curlew Conservation - might put that on a t-shirt.