Early success in campaign to save lapwings

A project to boost the population of lapwings has reported high hatching success. 

A new project designed to reverse the decline in the population of one of Scottish farmland’s most loved birds is reporting significant early progress.

Led by SAC Consulting - part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), together with farmers, RSPB Scotland and NatureScot, the campaign aims to boost the population of lapwings - also known as the peewit. 

The population of the species has plummeted across Scotland - and the rest of the world - in recent years, despite being the focus of agri-environmental schemes.

However, a nesting management trial led by the Clyde Valley Wader Group (CVWG), with funding from NatureScot, saw around 75 per cent of nests hatched across five trial fields, compared to the typical 20 per cent or less in grazed pastures.

Jennifer Struthers, SAC Consulting’s Senior Consultant and Area Manager, said: “Farmland is critical for the birds’ future as they nest in a variety of rural habitats including wetlands, grasslands and crops.

“As the birds nest on the ground, they can be prone to predation, disturbance from curious livestock and agricultural operations. The result is they typically experience very low breeding success.

“It is impressive that groups which would normally be seen as being on opposite sides of conservation campaign debates can come together and deliver positive results for one of this country’s best loved birds.”

Kenny Johnstone from Boghouse and Eastertown farms at Crawfordjohn, who has been heavily involved in the project, said: “The Clyde Valley Wader Group has given stakeholders a much more productive, reactive, honest and enjoyable environment to work together in the best interests of wader birds.

“Having seen the success of a local brassica plot in the area for lapwings, we were happy to try a brassica crop on an 18-acre field at Eastertown farm which we hoped would also benefit our farming business.

“We have been able as a group with funding to be flexible with grazing and ploughing to encourage as much nesting and hatching success as possible and are delighted the results are looking good.”

RSPB Scotland’s Senior Conservation Advisor Dan Brown said: “We have followed 600 nests in the last few years. Using trail cameras and tiny devices that record nest temperatures, we’ve massively improved our understanding of where and why nests do well, and where they don’t.

“This new data, combined with regular meetings and discussions with the farmers involved and the SAC Consulting team, allowed us to highlight key issues and start developing trials. We are delighted to find such high hatching success on trial plots.”

Gail Foster from NatureScot, which provided funding for the trials, said: “It’s been great to work more closely with the CVWG farmers and advisors on the first year of this project.

“It is really encouraging to hear about the higher hatching success on the trial fields and we hope that the next stage of the project will show even more benefits that can bolster Scotland’s populations of lapwing, and other farmland waders.“

Patrick Laurie, Galloway farmer, author and part of the national Working for Waders forum, said: “This is a significant piece of work which shows positive results for lapwing breeding success.

“Crucially, it has been designed by farmers to work alongside existing businesses, and it shows that while farmers are often blamed for the decline of biodiversity on farmland, the truth is that they are part of the solution. The farmers involved in the Clyde Valley Wader Group have put a huge amount of time and resources into this project, and their determination to make it work has been hugely encouraging.”

The next step for the campaign group is to expand the trial onto a greater number of farms and highlight measures to be included in future agri-environment schemes.

Posted by SRUC on 26/07/2023

Tags: Agriculture, SAC Consulting
Categories: Consulting and Commercial