Waders for Real: saving wading birds

 

Ben O’Rourke

“We’ve learnt a lot through working with the GWCT about how we approach things, how I approach my work, planning it and the effect I can have on the work we put in,” says gamekeeper Rupert Brewer of his involvement in the Waders for Real project.

Gamekeepers like Rupert are an essential link in the programme, which has seen redshank numbers rise from about 19 pairs to around 35.

Gamekeeper Rupert Brewer and GWCT’s Lizzie Grayshon

 

“Rupert has been really instrumental in what we’ve been doing, in getting things to work and bringing people on board,” says Lizzie Grayshon, who plays the vital role of getting landowners and farmers enthused about the project.

“The Avon Valley is fantastic, a whole suite of animals, invertebrates, predators, raptors… but if your corvid numbers get so high, there’s just no way the birds can fend off those predators,” says Lizzie. “That’s when legal, targeted predator control can come into its own… We know our fox population is very high and they can take out a population of breeding waders very quickly.”

Electric fencing in the Avon Valley to keep out predators

 

And that’s where Rupert steps in.

“It’s increasing our predator management and monitoring of them, looking at especially American mink, we’ve done very well with those, trying to get rid of those, corvid control and fox control,” he says. ”We go late winter into early spring, we really target foxes then before they cub and you can have an effect then that lasts through the breeding season for the waders – they get a bit of relief.”

Bird life in the Avon Valley

 

“We’ve done detailed monitoring of the wading birds but also of the predators as well,” adds Lizzie. “And we’ve been able to feed that information back to [Rupert]. We use a lot of camera traps, which gives us an idea what animals are using the landscape and we feed that back to Rupert and I think that’s made things a bit easier.”

Positive feedback from the GWCT goes a long way to fuel the enthusiasm of the team.

A vixen tracked by GWCT

 

“You see the increases year on year – you visibly see it as well as seeing the stats,” says Rupert. “The more effort I put in, the greater the response of the recovery of the waders, so it’s fulfilling.”

Predator control is a sensitive topic in the eyes of some sections of the public. But Rupert says locals are very supportive of the work to recover the wader populations.

The vixen’s tracking collar shows it travelled 25km across the New Forest and back

 

“There’s local awareness through the media… and people now talk to me about it and ask questions about how are the lapwing and how are redshank – people are quite buoyed by the recovery of these birds.”

Electric fencing to keep out foxes and badgers
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