I have always loved seeing – and probably even more so, hearing – curlews, but over the last few years as the stark reality of their National and global declines have become clear, the enjoyment and privilege of living alongside them has been balanced with an increased recognition of our responsibility to protect our remaining strongholds here in The Dales.
My late great grandfather wrote the following poem as a schoolboy, soon after his elder brother had been killed at Ypres, just over a hundred years ago:
I think that it would be difficult for anyone who has been brought up around the curlew and other charismatic upland waders not to care deeply about them. For many of us, these birds’ songs and calls are what brings the landscape to life and the beating heart of the countryside in spring.
This is never clearer than when I talk to gamekeepers and people like the writer, journalist and conservationist Mary Colwell, who is such a great champion for curlews. The passion that exists to protect them is deeper than a wish to support conservation – they define our cultural identity and to lose them would be to lose a part of ourselves.
Over the last three years we have carried out canon netting and colour marking of our over wintering population with International Wader Study Group member and licensed canon netter, Robin Ward, the Tees and East Dales Ringing Groups.
In 2017 we were involved with a collaborative project led by BTO and Yorkshire Dales National Park, local farmers and gamekeepers to study breeding waders using surveys and nest cameras to assess breeding success The GWCT are also using the estate for a paired site, as part of their curlew recovery work.
As well as trying to channel my interest in curlews into something scientifically useful and bring together different conservation interests to study them, I think that it is important to celebrate our remaining strongholds and raise public awareness of them in a family friendly way and this led to us holding our first Curlew Festival in 2017, which we will host again from 8th to 10th June this year at Bolton Castle in Yorkshire.
More information and online booking can be found here.