Gamekeeper Ian Sleightholm shaking the hand of HRH The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles with Sonya Wiggins in the background
Gamekeeper Ian Sleightholm shaking the hand of HRH The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles with Sonya Wiggins in the background

Gamekeepers meet Prince Charles at Highgrove House

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Members of the Yorkshire Dales Morland Group (YDMG) had the pleasure in delivering a talk at the Highgrove House ‘Curlew and other Priority Species Recovery Summit’ (Friday 7 February) which was hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.

In front of an influential audience of over 70 guests, which included leaders from the major policy organisations involved in Curlew conservation –  Natural England, RSPB, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) – Tom Orde-Powlett, son of Lord Bolton Landowner of Bolton Castle estate and part of the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, delivered a talk on what needs to be done in the uplands for curlew conservation.

Mr Orde-Powlett has been instrumental in his efforts to help the curlew species at Bolton Castle, for two years running, organising a Curlew Festival to celebrate the strong curlew population on managed moorland in Yorkshire and raise awareness for one of the UK’s most pressing bird conservation priorities.

Curlew chick
Curlew chick

Tom Orde-Powlett of Bolton Castle, said:

The breeding success of the range of ground nesting birds on our land is a source of pride and excitement but the plight of the curlew in the UK and globally is a major conservation concern. The curlew is the largest European wading bird and more than a quarter of the world’s breeding pairs are based in the UK, with Yorkshire being one of the remaining strongholds of curlews. This means the conservation efforts undertaken in the UK will have a significant impact on the future of the species globally.

The wide-ranging conservation efforts we have undertaken to help safeguard the future of this iconic bird in the Yorkshire Dales have included habitat management of heather and moorland ground and increased targeted control of both avian and mammalian predators.

We have also implemented techniques such as cannon netting under licence to enable us to leg ring the curlews so we can monitor them along with our gamekeepers in the Dales undertaking wader surveys over three months each spring, working alongside the BTO. We have also been working with the Yorkshire Dales National Parks and Natural England to divert walkers from vital nesting areas at crucial times.



Tom Orde-Powlett delivering our thoughts on the uplands to HRH The Prince of Wales with Sonya Wiggins YDMG coordinator at the table
Tom Orde-Powlett delivering our thoughts on the uplands to HRH The Prince of Wales with Sonya Wiggins YDMG coordinator at the table

Sonya Wiggins, coordinator of the YDMG, said:

It was fantastic to present our thoughts as a group on what needs to be done in order to help the plight of the curlew. We highlighted our own experiences and projects undertaken in the uplands by our dedicated land managers and gamekeepers with conservation very much front of mind.

Sessions on the day also covered topics looking at the current measures in countryside stewardship for priority species like curlew, understanding landscape needs of the birds and protecting nests and chicks from predation.

An overview on the ‘Curlew Recovery Projects’ from leading conservationist Mary Colwell offered insight into what works for the curlew and why. Amongst many accolades, Mary has been awarded the David Bellamy Award from the Gamekeepers’ Association for her conservation work on curlews. She was also cited in the top 50 most influential conservationists in the UK by BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Adult curlew
Adult curlew

Moorland owners and gamekeepers of the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group carry out vital conservation work on more than 226,000 acres of precious heather moorland across the area, much of which is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).








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