The New Forest is one of the most important sites in southern England for ground-nesting waders, but this species group is under particular pressure from a combination of generalist predators, recreational disturbance and weather/climate impacts. We are therefore asking for your support in our ongoing survey and monitoring of four wader species on the Open Forest (away from the coastal strip):
This year we are again monitoring our vulnerable New Forest breeding Curlew population in partnership with Andy Page (New Forest Head Keeper, Forestry England). Since 2016, work led by Wild New Forest (WNF), Forestry England and Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS) has indicated that our breeding Curlew population has declined by as much as two-thirds in recent decades, in line with national trends. We are confident that there are now only about 40 territories remaining in the New Forest, and with apparent low productivity, there are concerns that this could suddenly decrease further as the ageing adults are lost from the breeding pool. A summary slide outlining work undertaken to date is below. All Curlew records from 01 March to 31 July will therefore be gratefully received!
There are also concerns for Lapwing, which have suffered through a combination of the “Beast from the East” in 2018 and a couple of recent dry springs that together led to high adult mortality and reduced productivity. Last year, survey work indicated that the population may have crashed to less than 50 territories, but with the recent wet and mild winter there are hopes that this will be a more productive breeding season. They key month for assessing accurate figures for this species is April, as wintering birds can linger into March and failed breeders often relocate and nest again in May.
Redshank is another species that has undergone recent decline as a breeding species on the Open Forest, with no more than 5-10 pairs remaining, mostly in the southeast of the New Forest. The known breeding sites are well covered, but with exceptionally wet conditions on the ground this spring we would be keen to hear of any other birds holding territory away from the far southeast.
Finally, HOS are also delivering a New Forest breeding Snipe survey this year, with Keith Betton (HOS Chairman and County Recorder) co-ordinating a team of volunteer fieldworkers that are attempting to cover all the suitable boggy habitat (WNF are supporting this survey and covering 14 km2 of suitable habitat between Lyndhurst and Beaulieu). Any supporting data for this species will be helpful when assessing an updated population total.
We therefore ask all our readers to look out for any of the above-listed breeding waders within the New Forest National Park (away from the coastal strip), and to let us know the date, location (ideally a six-figure grid reference) and any pertinent behavioural notes. All information will support our survey and monitoring of these species and will help us derive more accurate population figures. The ultimate aim is to provide this information to Forestry England so they can investigate and potentially implement mitigation measures, e.g. the seasonal closure of the car park at Yew Tree Heath (new sign below) was aided by our survey work demonstrating the importance of this area for ground-nesting waders.
All sightings can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will endeavour to provide regular updates about how the season is progressing via this blog and our social media channels.