In this guest blog by Leica Sport Optics Ambassador Luke Massey, he reports on the walk he guided with Curlew Action on World Curlew Day.
On April 21st we celebrated World Curlew Day. Created by Mary Colwell, founder of Curlew Action, in 2017, World Curlew Day celebrates Curlews globally. The Eurasian Curlew has declined dramatically across the UK over the last 40 years. In Ireland they’ve decreased by over 90%, in Wales by over 80% and on average we have lost 60% throughout England and Scotland.
This World Curlew Day I had the pleasure of spending it in the New Forest, one of southern England’s most biodiverse hotspots, and luckily still home to breeding Curlews.
There I co-lead a guided walk around an area of the New Forest home to Curlews, Snipe, Lapwings and much, much more.
The sounds of Spring greeted me as I got out the car, despite the chill in the air. Curlews bubbled, Lapwings called out, Ravens cronked and recently arrived Cuckoos called from the tree tops.
Living in northern Spain, the sight of vultures in the sky isn’t unusual so when a short walk from the car park I was watching an extremely large raptor through my Noctivids, I was quite confused. I thought a Griffon vulture had followed me here. Then it clicked. The successful reintroduction of White Tailed Eagles in the Isle of Wight means these behemoth birds can now be spotted cruising around the local area. Not a bad start to the day!
My co-guide was local naturalist Professor Russell Wynn, co-founder of local organisation Wild New Forest. Russell lives and breathes the New Forest and is a font of knowledge on everything from tiny invertebrates and rare fungi such as Nail Fungus (our rarest sighting of the day), to birds and mammals.
Skylarks rose around us, parachuting back down to earth with their wonderful call. Stonechats and Meadow pipits called from gorse bushes around us. A Redstart sung from the edge of a Holly copse, whilst Europe’s largest finch, the Hawfinch, flew off from the birches ahead of us.
The walk was fully booked with nature enthusiasts, including Curlew Action’s founder Mary Colwell, and Curlew Action’s patron, musician David Gray. David even managed to spot a new bird species for him, a Dartford Warbler.
Curlews bubbled throughout the walk and, although remaining quite conspicuous, we did manage a few views as they glided across the surrounding heath. Whilst another foraged around a Bronze age Tumulus (an ancient burial mound).
Although Curlews do call the New Forest home, they’re up against it. Curlews are ground nesting birds so suffer from nest predation, with foxes and corvids regularly consuming eggs or recently hatched chicks. With the New Forest close to urban areas such as Southampton, a regular flow of foxes enter the area, as well as the resurgence of the mighty raven. A pair nest on the edge of the heath we explored, and show the delicate balance of nature. Once heavily persecuted, Ravens are now bounding back, but unfortunately Curlews do make up part of their diet. In spite of this, for now the Curlew hangs on.
And of course we humans can help. It was great to see closures of certain footpaths to minimise disturbance to the birds. By following these guidelines we can help birds, as well as being responsible dog walkers, keeping dogs close, or even better on the lead, to further minimise disturbance.
World Curlew Day is a time to celebrate Curlews, an iconic bird of the British landscape, that needs as much help and support as possible.