News

Generous grant will support curlew conservation in Sutherland

02/12/2019

RSPB Scotland is delighted to have received support from FCC Communities Foundation for habitat restoration work at their Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve.

The reserve is located in Sutherland, nestled amongst the rugged peatlands, sheltered straths and mountains of the Flow Country, the largest blanket bog in Europe. It supports a wide array of wildlife - including dunlin, greenshank and hen harrier - and one area of the reserve, Forsinain Farm, provides a mosaic of grasslands and wetlands that is home to breeding curlew, one of Scotland’s most threatened birds. When properly maintained, wetlands like this are the preferred habitat for breeding curlew.

The curlew is the largest European wading bird and it is instantly recognisable with its long, downcurved bill, mottled brown colouring, long legs and distinctive ‘cour-lee’ call. The UK’s breeding population of Curlew is of international importance, being estimated to represent more than 30 per cent of the west European population. There have been worrying declines in the breeding population throughout the UK and across the globe, due to changes in land use and practices that drain or dry out their preferred wetland habitats.

Thanks to the generous contribution of £34,196.13 from FCC Communities Foundation, RSPB Scotland has now started work to restore wetland habitat at the farm for the benefit of curlew and other conservation priority wildlife. The funds will also allow the team to introduce new visitor infrastructure, which will provide unprecedented viewing opportunities of the farm’s wetland biodiversity.

Darrell Stevens, Senior Site Manager at RSPB Scotland Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve said: “This grant will be instrumental in helping us to safeguard curlew breeding habitat on the reserve and hopefully help the population to increase to a more sustainable level.”

Work is currently underway to install fencing on the farm which will enable a controlled livestock grazing regime. Mechanical vegetation cutting will complement this livestock grazing and help remove overgrown invasive vegetation that has become established across these wet pastures. This will restore favourable habitat conditions that encourage breeding curlew and other conservation priority wildlife back onto the farm.

Other work will focus on restoring the wetlands’ marshy conditions, by reinstating water control and creating shallow ponds, called scrapes. Together, these will provide favourable muddy margins where curlew chicks and other short-billed birds can probe the soft mud to access an abundance of nutrient-rich invertebrates. Visitors will be able to enjoy the benefits of a new footpath and viewing hide which will be positioned to overlook these scrapes.

For the more information on RSPB Scotland Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve, visit https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/forsinard-flows/ or ‘like’ the Facebook / Twitter pages - @rspbhighlands / @RSPBNorthScot