WITHOUT URGENT action, Scotland's wading birds could soon be lost.

This warning came from 'Working for Waders' - a project set up by Scotland's Rural College and Scottish Natural Heritage in 2017 to raise awareness of wader declines.

Their annual report has highlighted a sharp decline in the number of wading birds such as lapwings, oyster catchers and curlews in Scotland over the past 25 years.

Working for Waders is calling for farmers and land managers to play their part in reversing the decline by undertaking collaborative management to increase wader numbers across their farms and crofts.

Wader declines in Scotland are believed to be linked to problems around breeding, due to changes in the countryside over the last few decades. Several species are now struggling to produce enough youngsters to replace natural mortality and the report highlighted that while past agricultural intensification has driven wader decline in some parts of the country, the conservation of waders is rarely about removing productive land from use.

It points out that some of the best habitat results come from targeting efforts towards rougher, wetter land and making sure that it delivers for wildlife. Including creating wetland habitats by not draining wet areas in fields, introducing seasonal grazing to prevent damage to eggs or chicks during the April to June breeding season, and controlling predators of ground-nesting birds such as foxes.

Head of SRUC’s Hill & Mountain Research Centre and co-chairman of Working for Waders, Professor Davy McCracken, said: “Some actions can be win-wins for farmers, as they benefit both agricultural productivity and the waders.

“For example, applying lime to improve soil pH can increase the abundance of invertebrates the birds prey upon. And, outwith the breeding season, cutting rushes provides the birds with access to those invertebrates across a greater area in any one field.”

He added: “It’s becoming clear that in order to be effective, wader conservation has to be rolled out across large areas, with collaborative projects involving multiple farms, estates and landholdings.”

Acting Director of Sustainable Growth at SNH, Robbie Kernahan, said: “As we begin to see (waders) them return to their breeding grounds in Scotland, we would like to let people know that anyone can get in touch with the Working for Waders project, get involved and help protect these wonderful birds."

For more information about Working for Waders, visit: www.workingforwaders.com




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