As objective scientists we would probably refer to the call of the curlew, but we chose to name our project, based around Ysbyty Ifan and Hiraethog, the equivalent of the ‘cry’ of the curlew, in Welsh. I hardly need to explain why we chose to focus on the call, since it is this which captures our spirit and imaginations most about this bird. As with the word ‘hiraeth’ in Hiraethog, it can be difficult to put one’s finger on exactly what the curlew’s liquid burbling call floating over ‘ffridd’ and moor does to those of us lucky enough to hear it. However, capture our emotions it certainly does! So much so that it can feel as if there would be a national outcry if the children of parts of rural Wales, and their children, could no longer hear the curlew’s evocative call wafting in the breeze of a spring evening. And yet this is exactly what could be the case by 2033 if we don’t succeed in halting the alarming decline in the numbers of breeding curlew in Wales.
So here come the sad statistics, if you’re not already aware of them: breeding curlew declined in Wales by 69% between 1995 and 2018. Currently the rate of change is 5% a year and so that is why the BTO and RSPBCymru can predict that 2033 is potentially apocalypse year for Welsh breeding curlew. This is the dramatic context for the 4-year long CurlewLIFE project run by RSPB and funded by the EU LIFE programme. It is also why Cri’r Gylfinir – the cry of the curlew – is such an apposite title. A sobering note is that when the project was first devised a few years ago the predicted year that breeding curlew could become extinct from Wales was nearer the middle of the century. However, this date has recently been revised, which adds an unbelievable urgency and pressure on our project.
So why focus the project on Ysbyty Ifan and Hiraethog? The simple answer is that this is where the greatest concentration of curlew breed in Wales. An estimated 10% of the breeding population of Wales, although no one knows the exact size of the breeding population due to lack of accurate data. This is in part because in much of Wales their distribution is scattered, with a pair nesting here and a pair nesting there. However, as we all know, data depends on accurate records and surveyors is exactly what we in the Cri’r Gylfinir/CurlewLIFE project are looking for. This winter we are undertaking a range of practical works to improve the nesting habitat for breeding curlew, in conjunction with farmers in the area. It is therefore imperative that we monitor to see whether any of the actions, in addition to the on-going work of managing the risk of predation, have helped our curlew to breed successfully. Why don’t you come along and spend a few hours helping to monitor the activities of breeding curlew or signs of predators during spring 2022? If you’re interested, please drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org.