Curlew on the rise in Wensleydale, local bird enthusiasts report

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A group of bird enthusiasts in Wensleydale have begun monitoring a seemingly very healthy population of Curlew, which contrary to national and international trends appears to be thriving here in the Dales.

The Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) is now classified as “near threatened” globally and is described by The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) as “the most pressing bird conservation priority in the UK”.

A flock – or herd, as its historic collective noun describes it – of over 600 birds regularly overwinter in the washland meadows below Wensley.

Many of the species breed on the moors and moor edge during the summer, where their ability to rear young to fledging is heavily reliant on gamekeepers controlling predators such as crows, stoats and foxes.

Two other species of curlew, Eskimo and Slender-billed, have almost certainly become extinct in the last 50 years and it would be heart-breaking for the same to happen to this iconic upland bird.

Although the group is not currently part of a larger conservation , the dozen people who have been involved so far are members of a range of organisations including BTO, East Dales Ringing Group, Tees Ringing Group, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, National Gamekeepers Organisation, Lower Ure Conservation Trust, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, the Universities of Durham and , RSPB and Moorland Association.

Robin Ward, a BTO licensed cannon netter and member of The International Wader Study Group, visited the Bolton Estate on 16 January and 27 February in order to take the catches, in which 42 birds were captured and marked with leg rings, which are white on the lower left leg and have individual colour combinations above (two colour rings above each “knee”).

If anyone sees any of these birds, please report them, accompanied by a photo if possible, to Robin Ward at rmward1963@btinternet.com

It is very important not to disturb these birds during the breeding season, so please watch from a distance.

More work is planned for spring and summer, with in bye grassland wader surveys, nest monitoring and hopefully colour marking some chicks. It may also be possible to fit GPS tracking devices to some birds in order to better understand their seasonal migration and inform decisions on how best the species can be protected.

BBC presenter and environmental journalist Mary Colwell visited Wensleydale to see the Curlew and will be returning on Friday, April 8, when she will give a talk about her forthcoming 500 mile walk which aims to raise funds and awareness for this beautiful bird.

The talk and a barbeque will be held at the West Bolton Moor lunch hut, near Carperby and tickets are £20, which will go to the BTO Curlew .

For tickets, please contact tom@boltoncastle.co.uk. If you are unable to attend, but would like to contribute, please do so online at http://www.bto.org/web-forms/donations-curlew-appeal.htm or to support Mary’s walk, her justgiving page is at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/mary-colwell-walk?utm_id=2

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