Return of Shropshire's wetland birds
PUBLISHED: 16:25 02 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:10 20 February 2013
Birds in danger are winging their way back to Shropshire's meres and mosses, says RSPB volunteer Laura Giles
Birds in danger are winging their way back to Shropshires meres and mosses, says RSPB volunteer Laura Giles.
The ethereal call of the lapwing and curlew as you walk across Shropshires meres and mosses, form an integral part of Britains landscape. Unfortunately, peatland and wet grassland are now threatened habitats, as land drainage and changes in farming practice have resulted in a steep decline in the quality and area of these fragile environments a fact that is reflected in the alarming decrease in numbers of breeding wading bird species, such as the lapwing, curlew, redshank and snipe.
To tackle this decline, a project was initiated across the Shropshire and North Staffordshire countryside. Lapwing Meadows is being run in partnership between the RSPB, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and forms part of Natural Englands Wetland Vision programme. Working with landowners and farmers, these organisations are striving to restore areas of wetland across the region for breeding waders and other wetland wildlife.
The focus for the project is the development of new wetlands on two remnant areas of peatland in North Shropshire Baggy Moor and the Weald Moor. These moors have been highly drained and improved for agriculture in past decades, but still have regionally significant populations of lapwing and curlew.
To breeding wading birds such as lapwings, areas of wet grassland are vital. Open wetlands offer an abundance of nesting habitat, and the productive, soft muddy ground enables the young chicks easy access to the high volume of protein-rich insect food that can be found there.
During this years breeding season, RSPB volunteers surveyed approximately 5,000 hectares across 31 participating farms on Baggy Moor and Weald Moor.
And excitingly, it appears that the project is breeding success. For the first time in many years, volunteers recorded the sighting of a pair of breeding redshank on Baggy Moor. Furthermore, the survey revealed an increase in the number of pairs of breeding lapwing, to approximately 65 pairs. Curlews however, were once again present only in low numbers, and were only sighted on Baggy Moor.
Surveyors were also treated to sightings of many other species including yellow wagtail, skylark, reed bunting, sedge warbler, corn bunting, an osprey flying over and even an otter in one of the ditches.
In addition to the higher wetland areas of peat and moss, Lapwing Meadows is also aiming to restore areas of wet grassland on lowland mixed farms, in particular those on the floodplain at the confluence of the River Severn and River Vyrnwy. In contrast to the upland environment, curlew numbers seem to be holding their own in this area, whereas the lapwings have been declining in this locality, with only approximately five pairs sighted this year.
So there is still work to be done. But, overall, the results are a positive indication that by working together we can attract wading birds, and other wetland wildlife, back to Shropshires meres and mosses.
The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife. Help us to continue our vital farmland conservation work, securing a future for our most threatened species by logging on to www.rspb.org.uk to find out more and become a member today.