Salisbury Plain curlews are thin on the ground - but the good news is - increasing. This year there were seven nests on the Plain and three young fledged. Phil Sheldrake from the RSPB, featured in the short film below, has been doing stirling work with monitoring them and trying to understand how best to encourage the population.
Phil Sheldrake writes:
Salisbury Plain remains the largest tract of chalk grassland in North West Europe. Having lost 80% of this wildlife rich habitat in the UK over the last 50 years, primarily to the agricultural landscape, the Ministry of Defence’s occupation of Salisbury Plain for the purpose of military training has preserved a natural gem. Well known for its impressive skylark and barn owl populations, and internationally important for its population of the rare stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus, it is perhaps of some surprise that these vast reaches of ‘dry’ grasslands are now home to a small but increasing population of the common curlew Numenius arquata.
Over the last 10 – 15 years the population has steadily increased to a minimum of six or seven pairs today. The RSPB has long worked with the MoD across the Plain for the conservation of stone-curlew with much success. We are now looking at ways in which we might increase capacity to do more for the common curlew; more survey and monitoring will help us to find out how well they are doing raising young, and help us work with the MoD in safeguarding areas in which the birds are nesting through sympathetic grassland management.
It is an interesting question as to why common curlew are increasing on Salisbury Plain, however, there are more immediate and pressing ones around what we can and need to do to further help them.
And another just to ponder...is Netheravon Airfield on Salisbury Plain the only airfield in the country to lay claim to being the only one with both breeding common curlew and stone-curlew?