Increasing wader numbers in the Avon Valley

In 1982 the Avon Valley was one of the top eight lowland wet grassland sites in England for breeding waders.


Since then, four surveys conducted every 6-7 years have highlighted a dramatic decline in numbers that mirrors the decline seen across Europe.

The decline in numbers

  • Northern lapwing pairs have fallen from 208 in 1990 to 71 in 2010.
  • Pairs of redshank have dropped from 117 to 22.
  • Common snipe from 29 to just 1.

The Life+ Waders for Real project

We’re seeking to reverse this decline in wader numbers on the Avon Valley. This river floodplain is of high biodiversity interest and part of it is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA).


Lapwing breeding has been monitored for the past eight years and findings reveal that current productivity is too low for a stable breeding population – we need to intervene to improve breeding success and breeding density.

Aims of the project

We hope to achieve a number of objectives by the end of this project:

  • Create ‘hotspots’ of optimum habitat and reduced predation pressure to increase lapwing numbers.
  • Increase the number of lapwing chicks so that breeding densities are large enough for lapwings to defend against predators.
  • Improve productivity to reverse the decline of redshank.
  • Encourage snipe to return to breed by creating the correct conditions.
  • Deliver sustainable conservation action by implementing a new approach - 'Planning for Real'
  • Show to what extent habitat manipulation can be applied to tip the balance in favour of waders rather than predators. Predator behaviour in manipulated landscapes will be monitored.
  • Learn which techniques offer efficient assessment and exclusion of predators and quantify the positives and negatives of predation control.
  • Calculate the costs and timescales involved with each of the different techniques which can be used for increasing wader numbers.
  • Ensure the effects of wader restoration on other key elements of floodplain biodiversity are monitored.

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Thank you for the comments

at 13:26 on 18/09/2015 by Lizzie Grayshon - GWCT

Apologies for the late reply, I have been out of the office. The Waders For Real project is a practical management and demonstration project with the main purpose of increasing breeding wader populations. This is one of the first projects attempting to reverse the decline of breeding waders outside of a reserve. We are faced with complications due to multiple land ownership and we are dealing with these by using a bottom up approach within a farmer led initiative. We are already aware of some of the key issues causing the decline, these include unsuitable habitat for nesting and brood rearing and increased levels of predation. By further monitoring alongside habitat modification and predation control we will be able to come up with successful techniques to reverse the decline.


at 12:34 on 06/09/2015 by Roger Broadbent

I have been involved in Staffordshire in Lapwing surveys.The main predators in daytime are corvids .They are in an almost continuous battle with Lapwings as they strive to establish territories.Another problem is farming activities in fields where Lapwings are nesting although Lapwings do have they ability to set up alternative territories.DisturbNce never helps I am not sure about foxes or badgers but I assume that their presence is not conducive to breeding Lapwings .I understand though that where fences have been built to keep foxes and badgers out then Lapwing numbers have increased on the North Staffs Moors to such a level as now to have a sustainable population.Good luck with this project.

avon valley

at 9:57 on 01/09/2015 by Charles Hunter

I would be interested to know what has happened to the badger population since 1982. I suspect that the badger numbers have exploded. Badgers do a lot of damage to ground nesting birds as well as digging up bumble bee nests. We had 3 bumble bee nests dug up in front of the house and are often finding nests dug up round Herefordshire and Shropshire.

Increasing wader numbers in the Avon Valley

at 16:33 on 26/08/2015 by Paul Smith

This isn't rocket science. Surely we don't need yet another raft of scientific investigations and monitoring to come to inevitable conclusion that diligent control of predators is needed, with the emphasis on "diligent". The Emperor Nero springs to mind!

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