We believe that the success of restoring breeding wader numbers depends very much on the combination of habitat management and reduced predation. Reduced levels of predation alone will be not be enough if there is insufficient food for adult birds or a lack of brood rearing areas. The correct mosaic of habitat conditions is needed to satisfy all the requirements of the waders. In the Avon Valley, the implementation of more wet features and improved brood rearing areas within or adjacent to the main lapwing nesting fields is an important priority. New habitat works will be additional to measures that can be funded through HLS.
To date, targeting of agri-environment schemes by government agencies has involved identifying areas of the country where, based on the occurrence of particular species or habitats, landowners are encouraged to enter a scheme. However, at a local level, this can still result in disparate patches of managed habitat which may not operate as effectively in conserving a species as a smaller number of larger patches. Our data for lapwings in the Avon Valley, and those from other studies, show that breeding success is higher when lapwings nest closer together in colonies. Using our previous data, we will identify target groups of fields where waders are still present in reasonable numbers, habitat and predator manipulation are feasible, and landowners are sufficiently motivated to stand a good chance of success at creating ‘hotspots’ of high lapwing and redshank productivity.
This approach has not been tried before, certainly in a non-reserve situation. However, the improved anti-predator defence of nests by lapwings in groups suggests that it is a logical approach to more quickly establishing self-sustaining meta-populations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that redshank nest survival is also higher in fields with increased densities of lapwings. Focusing all effort on sites where there is the maximum chance of success is likely to be the best strategy in situations where resources are limited. We aim to double the current area of in-field wet features (carriers/footdrains and scrapes) over at least 120 ha (approximately 30 ha per ‘hotspot’) to provide more attractive nesting areas for lapwings and redshank and better accessed brood rearing areas. We intend to extend management effort out from ‘hotspots’ once these meta-populations are deemed to be secure.