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Work Programme

The Curlew Recovery Partnership (CRP) was established on 01 March 2021 to help improve co-ordination of Curlew conservation in England, and to provide resources and support to all those working with Curlews ‘on the ground’ (see network map below). Here, we describe our future Work Programme, preceded by 1) a summary of the six-month consultation process, 2) an overview of the key themes identified, and 3) how individuals and organisations can get involved in delivery.

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Network map showing the position of the Curlew Recovery Partnership (CRP) in relation to the wider Curlew conservation landscape (for illustrative purposes only!). The CRP is responsible for national co-ordination in England and contributes to the UK and Ireland Curlew Action Group and (indirectly) to international bodies. Within England, the CRP already has an extensive network involving regional groups, local partnerships, organisations, and individuals, but the new Work Programme will enable closer engagement with Defra (to influence and inform policy), established wader groups, major land managers, research organisations, practitioners, funding bodies and the public. Abbreviations provided in appendix.

Introduction to the consultation process

The consultation phase for the work programme was conducted over a six-month period from March to August 2021 and comprised the following activities:

 

  • Email correspondence with (and feedback from) the members of our growing CRP network, which currently comprises nearly 300 email addresses.

 

  • An online seminar on World Curlew Day, featuring presentations from a series of expert guest speakers, followed by open Q&A.

 

  • A series of five Regional Online Workshops, featuring an introduction by the CRP Chair and Manager followed by open Q&A (often facilitated by CRP Steering Group members).

 

  • An online Curlew Practitioner Survey, which received over 400 responses, primarily from landowners, farmers, gamekeepers, and conservationists.

 

We are grateful to everyone that contributed ideas and information as part of this process. We have collated all the feedback received and have developed this Work Programme to help focus and prioritise our future actions. Our Steering Group have provided significant input into this process and met in person for the first time at WWT Slimbridge on 06 July 2021 to help prioritise the key themes (see pic below).

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The CRP Steering Group developing the Work Programme at WWT Slimbridge on 06 July 2021, clockwise from bottom left: Dr Andrew Hoodless (GWCT), Prof Russell Wynn (CRP Manager), Teresa Dent (GWCT), Mary Colwell (CRP Chair), Dr Geoff Hilton (WWT), Tom Stratton (Duchy of Cornwall), Mike Shurmer (RSPB), Mandi Perkins (Curlew Country), with Dr Sam Franks (BTO) and Tom Orde-Powlett (Bolton Castle Estate) contributing via the video-conference link.

CRP Work Programme - key themes 

A series of key themes were identified through the consultation process and are captured in the diagram below.

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Diagram showing the key themes in Curlew conservation identified during the CRP consultation process. Key pressures are shown in red, underpinning activities in blue, external-facing activities in green, and links to national/international bodies in black (selected examples only).

 

The triangle shows the key challenges in Curlew conservation in England, which are:

 

  1. providing the right habitat at all stages of the life cycle (nesting, chick-rearing, and wintering)

  2. mitigating loss of eggs and chicks to predation

  3. mitigating loss of eggs and chicks to commercial grass-cropping activities

 

Noting that 2 and 3 above are key drivers of reduced productivity in many areas. Other known pressures that are listed (and likely to increase in future) include: afforestation and tree-planting schemes, climate change and extreme weather, and recreational activities.

 

To meet these challenges, we need to deliver underpinning activities as shown in blue above; these include:

 

  1. informing and influencing future agri-environment schemes to ensure inclusion of Curlew-friendly options

  2. conducting and supporting research that informs our evidence base

  3. training fieldworkers in key skills

  4. developing and improving methods for survey and monitoring and novel techniques such as head-starting and drone-based observation. 

 

Finally, as shown in green, we need to:

 

  1. engage with our network, our stakeholders, and the wider public

  2. demonstrate how Curlew conservation has wider biodiversity and ‘natural capital’ benefits

  3. be able to fund our activities and support others in their funding bids 

 

CRP Work Programme - how to get involved

The next section outlines the various priority activities in our Work Programme that will be delivered over the coming months and years to address the key challenges identified in Curlew conservation in England. We will need support from our network (and beyond) to effectively deliver these activities, so whether you are a beginner birdwatcher looking out for colour-ringed Curlews on your local estuary, or a major landowner hosting large numbers of breeding Curlews on your land, there will be opportunities to get involved. These opportunities will be advertised in our monthly e-circulars and via our website and social media platforms, so please sign up to these if you haven’t already. 

 

A quick note on funding - thanks to generous financial support from Defra and several of the Steering Group member organisations, we’re able to support a full-time Manager and part-time Chair through to the end of 2022. However, we do require additional financial support to deliver some of the activities outlined below, particularly field-based training and trials from spring 2022 onwards, which will be conducted with a variety of partners and network members. So, if you are interested in supporting our future Work Programme, please contact the CRP Manager via the Contact Us page.

 

Note that, as the Work Programme develops, we will assess to what extent the delivery can be focussed on different regions of England, and whether we need to identify dedicated regional leads to facilitate this delivery. We will also continue to collaborate and share resources with our partners in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.

 

CRP Work Programme

A delivery structure has been developed for the Work Programme to ensure that all the key themes outlined above are covered in a timely fashion; the structure comprises a series of sub-groups beneath which are time-limited task-and-finish groups and/or focus areas for priority activities (see diagram below).

 

We have invited a series of Curlew practitioners with appropriate expertise to support our Steering Group in the delivery of these activities and are delighted that all the 20 or so invitees have accepted and are now part of our informal Advisory Group. They include representatives from Natural England, conservation NGOs including RSPB, BTO and WWT, PhD students, gamekeepers, farmers, communications professionals, research scientists and farming/ecological consultants and advisers.

 

All the delivery groups listed below are commencing work in autumn 2021. It is our intention that there will be a regular turnover of task-and-finish and focus groups, and so there will be opportunities for other members of our network to contribute going forwards. The CRP Manager will co-ordinate activity and communications between the various groups. Further details about the scope and composition of each group are provided below.

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Diagram showing the CRP Work Programme delivery structure, with a series of sub-groups beneath the Steering Group that will oversee time-limited task-and-finish groups and focus areas. The Chairs of each group are indicated with an asterisk, and further details of group remits and members are provided below.

 

Sub-group 1: Mitigating pressures

This sub-group is concerned with the key pressures impacting Curlews, and how best to mitigate them. The key pressures identified in England are habitat loss and deterioration, and reduced productivity due to predation and commercial grass-cropping. The sub-group comprises members of the CRP Steering Group, and has identified three priority actions to help address these pressures as follows:

 

T&F - AES crop management for Curlews

Loss of Curlew eggs and chicks during activities associated with commercial grass-cropping (silage and hay) has been identified as a driver of low productivity in many areas; these activities include rolling, cutting, and muck-spreading. This T&F group will therefore explore current and potential mitigation options that can feed into future agri-environment schemes and future trials, particularly the new Defra Environment Land Management (ELM) scheme. Group members include Mandi Perkins (Curlew Country, Chair), Kirsty Brannan (Oakbank Game & Conservation), Phil Grice (Natural England), Dr Geoff Hilton (WWT), Dr Rachel Taylor (BTO), Sarah Wells (Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group – SW) and Debbie Wilkins (Farmer, Severn Vale).  

 

T&F - predator AES options

Predation of eggs and chicks by generalist predators such as Foxes and corvids has been identified as an additional driver of low Curlew productivity. This T&F group will assess the efficacy of control measures (both non-lethal and lethal) to inform and advise future AES options and field trials targeted at Curlews and other ground-nesting birds. Group members include Prof Russell Wynn (CRP Manager, Chair), Mary Colwell (CRP Chair), Gerald Gray (Head Keeper), Tom Orde-Powlett (Bolton Castle Estate), Mandi Perkins (Curlew Country), Mike Short (GWCT) and Mike Shurmer (RSPB).

 

Focus - site criteria

The CRP are keen to identify suitable sites where future trials and training can be conducted, ideally spread across different regions of England. The CRP Manager will therefore be producing a series of criteria to identify priority sites and will develop these with the Steering Group (although it’s important to note that the CRP will continue to support Curlews and Curlew conservationists anywhere in England). 

 

Sub-group 2: Survey, monitoring and training

This sub-group will develop Curlew survey and monitoring methods and will advise on training activities to support those involved in Curlew fieldwork. The sub-group members include Dr Geoff Hilton (WWT, Chair), Richard Bailey (Moorland Gamekeeper), David Evans (WWT), Paul Noyes (BTO), Phil Sheldrake (NE), Mike Shurmer (RSPB) and Mike Smart (Curlew Forum). This sub-group has two initial priority actions:

 

T&F - head-starting

Although there are only three (relatively new) head-starting projects in England, the technique is already generating significant interest amongst the wider Curlew conservation community. This T&F group will provide information and guidance on head-starting for the community and will act as a conduit for information flow with Natural England, who will be the licensing body for head-starting applications. Group members include Dr Geoff Hilton (WWT, Chair), Dr Sam Franks (BTO), Mandi Perkins (Curlew Country), Richard Saunders (Natural England) and Tom Stratton (Duchy of Cornwall).

 

T&F - training activities

Feedback from the community has indicated a need for field-based training in Curlew survey and monitoring activities such as nest-fencing installation and nest-camera deployment. This T&F group will therefore develop a training programme that could be delivered from spring 2022 onwards, building upon existing regional activity and leveraging new and existing funding. Group members include Mike Shurmer (RSPB, Chair), Richard Bailey (Moorland Gamekeeper), David Evans (WWT), Paul Noyes (BTO), Mike Pollard (Upper Thames Wader Group) and Elli Rivers (PhD student). 

 

Sub-group 3: Research

This sub-group will identify priorities for future Curlew research activities, both in the short-term (e.g. effectively communicating relevant research outputs to policymakers) and in the longer-term (e.g. postgraduate research projects). Sub-group members include Dr Sam Franks (BTO, Chair), Dr David Douglas (RSPB), Dr Jenny Gill (UEA), Dr Geoff Hilton (WWT) and Dr Andrew Hoodless (GWCT).

 

Focus - PhD topics

An initial focus for this sub-group is to identify priority topics for potential postgraduate research projects, and to explore which Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) have capability to deliver these projects; the group will also explore opportunities to influence future funding opportunities for postgraduate research on Curlews.

 

Focus - heather burning

The CRP are looking to better understand how current and future policy changes relating to heather burning (in both upland and lowland environments) may impact breeding Curlews. The CRP Manager will therefore review existing literature and engage with colleagues with relevant experience to assess whether further action and engagement with policymakers is required to ensure potential impacts on Curlews are considered. 

 

Sub-group 4: External engagement

This sub-group will oversee CRP external engagement activities, including communication with our network members, key stakeholders such as Defra Group, and the wider public. Sub-group members include Mary Colwell (CRP Chair), Ian Danby (BASC), Harry Ewing (PhD student), Mandi Perkins (Curlew Country), Mike Smart (Curlew Forum) and James Swyer (GWCT).

 

Focus - colour rings

The CRP Manager will work with colleagues to provide guidance for Curlew enthusiasts about Curlew colour-ring reading and reporting, with a view to releasing these this autumn. Potential mechanisms for improved co-ordination of colour-ring promotion and recording will also be explored, particularly as there are now several head-starting projects under way involving colour-ringed birds. 

 

Focus - land managers

The CRP Manager will establish a forum for major public-sector organisations and utility companies responsible for breeding Curlews, with a view to exchanging knowledge and info. Likely contributors include Forestry England, National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, and several National Park Authorities. Key topics for discussion will include afforestation / tree planting, recreational disturbance, and the potential requirement for future Special protection Areas (SPAs) for breeding Curlews. 

 

Sub-group 5: Fund-raising

This sub-group will explore novel funding opportunities for future CRP activities, including field-based trials and training, and to assess mechanisms for the CRP to support other organisations submitting funding bids that include Curlew-friendly activities. Sub-group members include Teresa Dent (GWCT, Chair), Mary Colwell (CRP Chair), Mandi Perkins (Curlew Country), Tom Orde-Powlett (Bolton Castle Estate) and Tom Stratton (Duchy of Cornwall).

 

Focus - pilot proposal

The CRP Manager will look across the developing Work Programme and identify priority activities and sites for a future CRP ‘pilot programme’ that may run for 1-3 years, and opportunities to align different funding streams to enable this; this will require oversight by the fund-raising group (and the Steering Group) as well as close liaison with those engaged in policy and training T&F groups.

 

Appendix - abbreviated names

AEWA = Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds

BCE = Bolton Castle Estate

BTO = British Trust for Ornithology

BW = BirdWatch (Ireland)

CA = Curlew Action

CC = Curlew Country

CCP = Curlew Conservation Programme (Ireland)

DAERA = Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland)

Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (England)

DoC = Duchy of Cornwall

EA = Environment Agency

ELMs = Environmental Land Management scheme

EU LIFE = European Union L'Instrument Financier pour l'Environnement

FC = Forestry Commission

GRCF = Green Recovery Challenge Fund

GWCT = Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

HEIs = Higher Education Institutes

JNCC = Joint Nature Conservation Committee

MoD = Ministry of Defence

NE = Natural England

NHLF = National Lottery Heritage Fund

NGOs = Non-Governmental Organisations

NIEA = Northern Ireland Environment Agency

NPAs = National Park Authorities

NPWS = National Parks and Wildlife Service (Ireland)

NRW = Natural Resources Wales

NUCLNP = Northern Upland Chain Local Nature Partnership

RSPB = Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

UK CAG = United Kingdom and Ireland Curlew Action Group

WWT = Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust