FARMERS and land managers are being invited to a free event at Threepwood Farm, Galashiels, next month, to find out how to integrate wading bird conservation into their farms.

Organisers Soil Association Scotland warned that wading bird numbers were declining fast in Scotland – in the last 20 years, curlews have declined by 60%, lapwings by 50%, and oystercatchers by 40% – and if the people with suitable land didn’t act now, these iconic species could disappear from Scottish farmland altogether.

Farmer Colin Strang Steel of Threepwood said that seeing these birds back on his farm had been very rewarding, and that he now spends a lot of time – probably too much time – just watching them. He stressed that it is relatively easy to change farm practices to accommodate wading birds.

“We ploughed up one field to reseed it,” he explained, “and the moment we did, lapwings started arriving. To encourage them to stay, we created some scrapes on the adjoining field so they could have access to water.

“I just think it gives you a much richer countryside if you can see these birds. There’s very little work once the birds arrive because you don’t want to disturb them too much, and it isn’t difficult to attract them.

“In more recent years we’ve created a series of wetland areas where we now see lapwings, oyster catchers and the occasional curlew. Last year I saw a greyhen (female black grouse) on adjoining ground, which is the first one I’ve seen here for 25 years.”

Advising others on how to make their farms more habitable for wading birds, Mr Strang Steel said: “The first step is to create an area where these birds can access broken-up ground. Just plough a tiny area and leave it fallow. Water is essential, but it doesn’t have to be a huge area and it can be very shallow. It’s very easy to do this, and to create the right sort of conditions you’re not taking a lot of good ground.”

The Threepwood Farm event, on Thursday June 6, is an opportunity for interested farmers and land managers to come and discuss practical conservation methods that work with farm businesses, such as making wader scrapes, organising seasonal grazing and carrying out rush control. Some of this work may actively improve farm profitability, and funding is available to cover the cost of making a start.

This event is part of the Working for Waders initiative, and will run from 10am–1pm, including lunch. It is free to farmers and land managers, but booking is required. Call Jane on 0131 666 2474 or email to