What are we waiting for? Extinction?

Curlew Close Up

Surely I cannot be the only person connected to species management in this country, who is wondering when on earth we are going to tackle some of the more difficult questions that need answering? I say this because I have worked all my life in farming and conservation, yet I find myself discussing certain topics that I remember debating when I first started out in this career, yet no national decision has ever been forthcoming.

Meanwhile many UK species are plummeting towards extinction, while we continue our deliberations.
For example, just the other day I stood on a well-keepered estate high up on the South Downs, with a mixed group of people, all of whom represented a wide range of organisations involved in managing the countryside – Government included.

We had just been watching a good number of lapwing chicks on some fallow land, while the agitated parents flew overhead shouting out their complaints. This sight would have been commonplace across the country when I started out, but nowadays lapwing numbers are in a very sorry state, especially across the south of the country.

The conversation within this mixed group turned to the importance of legally controlling predators, as these ground-nesting birds are so very vulnerable. Everyone present – yes absolutely everyone – agreed that it was a vital ingredient to managing lapwing breeding success.

So, if the debate has obviously been resolved, why is predator control not a key requirement when being paid public money to put in management options for breeding lapwing? I will tell you why. Because the public might not like it.

However, it does appear that the Government is quite happy to continue to pay land managers for implementing lapwing conservation options in the knowledge that they are unlikely to produce many fledged lapwing young. Yet we all know, the Government included, what would help to turn this poor productivity around. I expect the public might not like this situation much either.

Meanwhile, the curlew, another ground-nesting bird, is down to the last 300 nesting pairs south of Birmingham. Improved habitat management is needed of course, but meanwhile we all know that predation is also a key factor in the curlew’s alarming decline, and this could be tackled straight away.

As we surely have very little time to save the curlew in southern England, do we really need to deliberate further? Perhaps we are all secretly resigned to the fact that we will not hear the lonely, bubbling call of this wonderful wader down south for much longer, because it is just too politically difficult to implement what we know they need.

Personally, I think that we all need to stop pussy-footing around and get on with what is best for individual species, before it is too late. Otherwise, new entrants coming into the world of conservation and taking over from the likes of me, will be using the lapwing and curlew’s extinction as examples of what must not happen to the next ‘species of concern’.

Curlew 600

Buy a badge and help us save the curlew

You can help us get practical curlew conservation advice to those on the ground by buying one of our brand new curlew pin badges. £5 from the sale of each badge goes to our Action For Curlew project, which is providing advice to farmers, landowners and gamekeepers on the action they can take to reverse the alarming decline in curlew numbers.

Buy your curlew badge >


Peter Thompson's Blog

at 12:29 on 07/11/2017 by Karl Pipes

Well said Peter. It is noticeable from the comments that the 'protectionist' lobby seems dumb struck regarding argument against what you say? We just might be getting through to them at long last. What a shame they will not come out and admit we are justified in calling ourselves true conservationists.

peters blog

at 13:01 on 24/10/2017 by simon kibble

Having read peters blog which is based on matter of fact experiences he himself has witnessed relating to changes in both our birdlife ,mammals.Such observations have not gone unnoticed by many a country person,myself being one. Sadly gamekeepering isn't what it used to be ,its focus no longer has predator control as a core activity its more game rearing with quotes I myself have heard from key game shooting estates that more game birds are released to take account of losses to predators ,and then any unpicked birds are picked up by the predators . I recently spoke to natural England about our land losing its green plover colony ,a decline brought about on more occasion by nightime foraging of badgers .The basis of my call was to find out if it was possible to obtain a licence to reduce the badger numbers and help redress the imbalance as our pressed efforts on the legal predator control was stoping the loss. Sadly the n.e .agent didn't know what a green plover was and I had to suggest that he looked I up on the bto website ,as well as suggesting another like peewit.He did finally find the bird and we moved on to my point that in seeing close on a 300 percent increase in badgers the ground nesting green plover as well as other ground nesting birds and bees ,wasps too were also taking a hit . His answer was that nature would take its course ,there was nothing that could be done. So it looks like the current imbalance will bring about the demise and subsequent extinction of many of our ground nesting birds in areas were best efforts on predators are undermined by such as badgers. Perhaps if we all make a call to natural England and tell the story of what you see ,not what you read ,or what you have been told( Nothing but fact the countryside and its wildlife might survive)

The wrong people are advising the law makers

at 11:15 on 24/10/2017 by Richard Zawadski

I agree with Philip Merricks's assertion that the problem lies in the protectionist NGOs whose actions are led more by fear of losing members than advising Government to allow worthwhile predator control. They have controlled the agenda for a lifetime and look where it is taking us!


at 11:08 on 24/10/2017 by Charles Grisedale

Could not agree more with you Peter . In Wales as you know Lapwings are going to be extinct as a breeding species . Here for two decades I have been doing my best . I need to spend about 5k this winter refencing the main breeding area against land predators . It will have to come from my pocket / overdraft as usual . I tried through Glastir to fund this with no result , which speaks volumes as to the usefulness of this scheme . It is a national ( Wales ) disgrace that a part of Welsh heritage , is so let down . The prescription for their salvation is simple . Exclude or control the spiralling numbers of their predators . Farmers will do the rest voluntarily .And trust me Welsh Lapwings will be extinct .

Peter's blog

at 10:44 on 24/10/2017 by Nick Fox

We pioneered the Industrial era and now most Brits are several generations removed from our rural roots. But we also pioneered conservation and protectionism and established some influential NGOs before government departments set up systems for managing wildlife. We have no proper state Wildlife Management dept. So most of our practical management centres on individual privately owned holdings rather than a more holistic landscape wide approach that many species need. And the protectionist NGOs capitalise on a simplistic approach that sounds good in public sound bytes, but just polarises the situations on the ground. The media love polarisation, it is meat and drink to them, while it paralyses civil servants into inaction. The main opportunity to break through this (and it looks murky at the moment) is how to configure post-Brexit environmental schemes. Various NGOs, the GCWT included, all have their individual angles and priorities. Could we take a wider view and try to agree some broader wildlife management priorities and implementing mechanisms that all could sign up to?

Pete Thompson's blog

at 20:20 on 22/10/2017 by Philip Merricks

Well said Pete. All must know about that it is biologically and economically perverse for Govt to shell out, through Natural England, large amounts of HLS agri-environment payments solely for breeding wader habitat creation and management schemes and to Ignore predator control (species management). But I would disagree with Pete about one point. What we have seen is at our reserve at Elmley on the N Kent marshes is that the "public" have more sense than Pete might think. At Elmley where every year, we fledge more than 300 Lapwing chicks, we are quite happy to have Larsen traps in full sight of our 15,000 public visitors. It's not the "public" who are politically negative about predator control but some environmental NGOs who have captured the formulation of bird related agri-environment prescriptions. Whose policies are driven by their membership departments and who are focussed on the perceptions of some of their urban members. And are concerned about losing a few members. It is indeed time for Govt to take action. For the sake of both Lapwing and financial common sense.

Peters Blog

at 9:56 on 20/10/2017 by Mike Stirk

As usual an excellent-to the point -and well prepared blog. I totally agree with your sentiments and predation control both of avian and ground predators combined with the co-operation of farmers and land owners is paramount to the question of how we can endeavour to keep these threatened ground nesting birds from possible extinction in the near future.

Make a comment

Cookie Policy

Our website uses cookies to provide you with a better online experience. If you continue to use our site without changing your browser settings, we'll assume you are happy to receive cookies. Please read our cookie policy for more information.

Do not show this message again