By Dave Parish, Head of Scottish Lowland Research
Breeding waders have always done very well at Auchnerran: the farm supports large populations – of national significance in some cases – and the birds usually produce more than enough young than are needed to maintain the local population.
The site benefits from sympathetic habitat management and the control of the number of some predators like corvids and foxes, courtesy of the neighbouring gamekeeping team. Over the last few years we have recorded some predation of eggs, but usually only around 11% of clutches monitored via trail cameras succumb to predators.
The last few days has seen a worrying development at Auchnerran. We have been monitoring badger numbers on the farm over the years and noticed a steady increase in their abundance and have recorded the occasional raid on a wader nest. But over the last week or so we have lost approx. two-thirds of our early lapwing nests (around 20) to badger predation – some of which we have been able to capture on camera (the remainder we can usually infer from the remains at the nest site).
That badgers are the principal culprit is further supported by the fact that the areas where nests have survived are all completely rabbit-netted, like our game-cover plots, so access for large ground predators is not so straightforward. That said, Brock has been trying hard: rolling large stones away from the netting along the bottom of gates!
Such a large impact in such a short space of time is worrying and intriguing. We will continue to monitor the situation as best we can, moving our small stock of cameras from nest to nest as events unfold, to try and capture as much information on what is happening as possible. Will the lapwing attempt to lay second clutches and if so, will the badgers keep hunting them? Hopefully, this won’t extend to our more vulnerable population of curlew…