The work of the Trust’s Waders and Wetland Research department focuses largely on wading birds, both within and beyond wetland habitats.
Many species of wetland bird have declined over the last 50 years as a result of human development, drainage and agricultural intensification. Waders such as snipe, redshank and lapwings have suffered a significant reduction in numbers, and whilst once widespread as breeding birds, are now concentrated at relatively few specially managed sites. Our work looks at the scale and causes of this decline and tries to identify factors that can reverse this trend. This work includes a large-scale and long running study into waders breeding in lowland wet grassland habitats in the Avon Valley, Hampshire.
Lapwings also breed on arable land, but here too populations have declined dramatically in recent years, such that the lapwing is now red-listed as a bird of conservation concern. Our work on lapwings extends to arable land where we look at the efficacy of conservation measures designed to promote breeding success. We aim to determine the causes of continuing poor productivity both on wet grassland and arable land and find solutions to assist with population recovery.
A large proportion of our wader research focuses on the Eurasian woodcock, a bird that the trust has studied for well over 30 years. Though woodcock are not considered a wetland species, they are descended from a wetland-dwelling ancestor that has become uniquely adapted to living in woodland. Our early work on woodcock was concerned with the basic ecology and habitat requirements of the species. The current focus of our work on this species is on understanding population numbers and trends and examining woodcock migration across Europe. This includes our Woodcock Watch project, with its pioneering use of satellite tags and geolocators; radio-tracking studies that provide an insight into the woodcock’s wintering ecology; and the BTO/GWCT Woodcock survey which assesses breeding woodcock numbers on a national scale.