Your Curlew Sightings are Important

The critical decline of Curlew is well documented and your help is required in reporting all sightings of recently colour-ringed birds.

Some Curlew wintering on the Usk and Severn have been ringed, using six rings on the legs. These birds may of course travel west and be seen here in East Glamorgan. Information on their whereabouts will help conservation efforts.

The key colour rings to identify individuals are the single ring on the left tibia (upper leg – orange in photo), and the two rings on the right tibia (blue and lime green in photo).  There is a metal ring on the right tarsus, and two colours on the left tarsus to denote the project (yellow and white in photo).

Colour-ringed Curlew

Andrew Strong is collating information on re-sightings of any of these birds on behalf of the BTO. Please email Andrew details of any colour-ringed Curlew that you see, to, and he’ll get back in touch with you to let you know the birds’ history.

Usk marked wintering birds have been reported on their breeding grounds in both Poland and Finland. Any further sightings of your birds will be published in the Gwent Ornithological Society Newsletter, or see


Help prevent a Curlew catastrophe

Curlew (Photo; Jeff Slocombe)
Curlew (Photo: Jeff Slocombe)

The long, decurved bill, reminiscent of a crescent moon, and its evocative bubbling call are distinctive characteristics that make the Curlew so easily identifiable.  Yet it is in real danger of becoming a thing of the past as it has just become one of the newest additions to the British Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, and deemed to be of the highest conservation priority.

At the end of the Second World War, pairs of breeding Curlew could be found in Glamorgan from the Rhymney Valley to West Gower (Birds of Glamorgan, Hurford & Lansdown ).   However, the East Glamorgan 2007-11 Atlas shows that breeding was only confirmed from one 10km square around Merthyr.

Our local decline is mirrored across the UK. The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) shows a 46% decline across the UK in the last two decades, with this figure exceeding 50% in Wales and Scotland. Critically, the UK holds 28% of Europe’s breeding Curlew, meaning that declines here represent the loss of a substantial portion of Europe’s total breeding Curlew population.

The UK’s population of wintering Curlew is also of global importance, representing nearly one-fifth of the world population. Resident breeding Curlew are joined in winter by birds from the Continent and Scandinavia. However, the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) estimates about a 20% decline in Curlew numbers over the last 15 years.

To unpick the causes of Curlew population decline the BTO is planning a ground-breaking programme of research, analysing existing datasets to investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation and utilising revolutionary new technology to track wintering Curlew. The sooner we can start on this research, the sooner we can understand the conservation actions needed to help Curlew recover.

Our target for the first year is £100,000 to begin this vitally important research.

Find out more about the appeal and some of the questions we want to investigate or make a donation to help reverse the fortunes of this beautiful bird.

Small Grant Scheme from WOS

Willow Tit by Sergey Yeliseev, on Flickr
Willow Tit by Sergey Yeliseev, on Flickr

A small grants scheme is offered by the Welsh Ornithological Society to support the research of birds in Wales.

For 2012, two grants of up to £500 are available for project that will benefit red or amber listed species.

The project should aim to improve:

  1. Current knowledge of status, trends, distribution or species requirements
  2. Habitat conditions at specific sites (the work undertaken will need to be sustainable)
  3. Production and dissemination of species information to assist others in conservation action

A number of red-listed species are resident or breed in East Glamorgan including Lapwing, Willow Tit, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and possibly Trees Sparrow.

Can anyone make use of these grants to increase our understanding of these species in Wales?

More details are available from the Welsh Ornithological Society.

Is Mist Netting Safe?

Mist nets are commonly used by researchers to capture birds in the study of their behaviour, movements and demographics.  A recently published study has, for the first time, evaluated the risks associated with mist netting.

Mortality and injury rates were quantified from over 300,000 birds caught by 22 banding (ringing) organisations across the US and Canada.  Risk factors which could increase rates of injury or mortality including bird size, age, frequency of capture and the role of predators were all assessed.

Sand Martins in Mist Net by Mark Philpott, on Flickr
Sand Martins in Mist Net by Mark Philpott, on Flickr

Results indicate that injury and mortality rates below one percent can be achieved during mist netting and injured birds are likely to survive in comparable numbers to uninjured birds after release.  Rates of incident varied among species, with some at greater risk than others.

Mist netting then has low rates of incident when conducted with  adequate training and bird safety precautions in mind.

Spotswood, Erica N. et al (2011) How safe is mist netting? evaluating the risk of injury and mortality to birds. Methods in Ecology & Evolution. Article first published online: 30 June 2011, DOI: 10.1111/j.2041-210X.2011.00123.x