Yesterday, I attended a Curlew Recovery Summit at Highgrove House, representing Wild New Forest and our ongoing New Forest Curlew Project (which is undertaken in partnership with Forestry England and others). The event was hosted by Prince Charles, and included leaders from all of the major conservation and policy organisations involved in Curlew conservation. The aim was to influence future policy around issues such as land management, agricultural practise and predator control, for the benefit of Curlews and other lowland fauna. The New Forest was also represented by Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, who led a round-table discussion on how to balance protected landscapes, species recovery and public access.
I was part of another round-table discussion on what is required to protect the remaining lowland Curlews, which included land-owners, farmers and gamekeepers, as well as conservationists and policy-makers. The breeding Curlew population in lowland southern England now only numbers about 400 pairs, of which we hold about 40 pairs (i.e. 10%). Although the numbers in our region are small, a key point to emerge was that the distribution map would significantly contract if we lost these lowland Curlews, and a large part of the human population would no longer be able to enjoy these beautiful birds on their breeding grounds.
Our New Forest Curlews will be returning to their breeding sites in March, and so we will soon be making a call for everyone to contribute to their ongoing monitoring by alerting us to any sightings. We will be assessing whether our remaining breeding population of 40 pairs is stable or not, and how we can increase chick productivity by mitigating key pressures such as predation and recreational disturbance.
Finally, many thanks to Mary Colwell for helping with accommodation and transport, and for providing some useful ideas about how to influence and inspire New Forest residents and visitors about our breeding and wintering Curlews.