20 June 2017

Conservation success in the Avon Valley

An example of different groups working closely together to conserve declining birds is being led by a Fordingbridge-based charity.

Over the past 25 years, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) has documented a 70 per cent decline in numbers of breeding lapwings and an 83 per cent fall in breeding redshank (wader birds) in the Avon Valley.

Launched in 2014, The EU LIFE+ ‘Waders for Real’ project aims to halt and reverse these declines in a time of increased threat to wildlife. 

Establishing an environment to aid wader recovery has included plenty of habitat work, which involved manipulating the landscape by removing old fence lines and willow scrub as well as re-profiling 2.9 km of ditches, digging 1.6 km of new ditches and creating 23 scrapes to create more chick foraging habitat.

The project also involves monitoring the outcome of these works, from radio-tracking lapwing chicks to better understand the fine-scale habitat structures that ensure increased chick survival. 

So far, the project has seen increases in these endangered birds in the Avon Valley, with lapwing pairs increasing from 62 in 2015 to 81 in 2016 and a jump in redshank pairs from 19 in 2015 to 28 in 2016. IMG_5524

The scientists at GWCT are starting to better understand which techniques are most effective in increasing breeding success of the waders and hope to record further successes with bird numbers, but also want to look at the possible benefits to the wider ecosystem.

Lizzie Grayshon, the project officer and a wetlands research assistant at GWCT, pictured below, said: “The Waders for Real project has given us the opportunity to work closely with a whole network of farmers, land owners and keepers to target lapwing conservation.

“Being able to see some positive results after the first two years is really encouraging and really good to give feedback to everyone putting in the hard work to make it happen.”

Together in the Avon Valley, scientists and farmers are working together to reverse declining wildlife numbers, which is a promising development in the fight to protect Britain’s wildlife alongside maintaining economically sensible agricultural practices.

To find out more information about the project, visit https://www.gwct.org.uk/research/species/birds/lapwing-and-other-waders/waders-for-real/

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Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line - at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Joel Holt
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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