WITHOUT concerted effort to save the curlew, it may soon be lost to many parts of Scotland.

Listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the UK has lost almost two thirds of its curlews since 1994. In England there are now just 300 curlew nests south of Birmingham.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust is actively involved in curlew conservation both north and south of the border through initiatives like Action for Curlew, the AEWA Eurasian Curlew International Working Group and, in Scotland, Working for Waders. Suitable habitat and farming practice both play a central role in wader conservation and substantial numbers of waders including curlews still return every spring to Auchnerran, the GWCT Scottish Demonstration Farm on Deeside.

Much of the Trust’s research on the farm assesses the different impacts made by land use. Equally, a key component of its work is around predator management, promoting an open, honest discussion about which species should be controlled and the level of control that is appropriate.

GWCT Scotland’s head of lowland research, Dr Dave Parish, said: "To achieve a significant recovery of curlews across Scotland, predator management can often provide the most immediate response. Habitat management can take much longer to yield results and be particularly challenging if not deployed in conjunction with predator control.

"We must also recognise that simply relying on the status quo for legally protected species, which may otherwise be seriously predating endangered species such as curlew, needs to be challenged," stressed Dr Parish. "The concept of adaptive management, where trials and monitoring can support a wide range of cases – such as the recovery of a threatened species or constraining the impact of an over-abundant species – is well established around the world.

April 21 – this Sunday – has been designated World Curlew day, in what Dr parish described as a 'grass-roots initiative', supported by major environmental organisations, to raise awareness of the plight of curlews and to encourage activities to help them.

"We cannot simply preside over extinction and we must take the opportunity to assess all practical options at our disposal to safeguard the future of this wonderful species," he said.

The curlew’s evocative call has been much loved by generations of Scots, particularly in the south-west and the Borders, where the bird was often better known as the whaup. Its presence is recorded in place names such as Whaup Knowe in Dumfries and Galloway, whilst in Berwickshire, inhabitants of the Lammermuirs were nicknamed whaups.