Julian Hughes is Head of Species at RSPB Cymru, helped to develop the Curlew LIFE project and is a member of Gylfinir Cymru, the group that co-ordinates recovery work for curlews in Wales.

If curlews relied on shared passion and co-operation alone to save them, their future would be bright. That’s not all they need, sadly, but it’s a good place to start.

Gylfinir Cymru/Curlew Wales recently launched a 10-year national recovery plan for curlews, at an online event chaired by Mark Isherwood MS, Senedd champion for curlew. Estimates of the number of curlews breeding in Wales range from 400-1,700 pairs. They are declining at a rate of 6% every year and are predicted to be on the brink of extinction as a viable breeding species by 2033. Those are sobering figures for a bird that in my lifetime has gone from being a widespread farmland species to one whose cry is now absent from most Welsh valleys.

Having been involved in writing the plan, its launch and pushing for action on the ground, I am heartened by the willingness of all involved to champion the needs of these wonderful birds. Gylfinir Cymru involves conservation groups, farming unions, the shooting community, science and government. We don’t agree on everything – and there are some things on which we might never see eye-to-eye – but there is sufficient common ground on curlew conservation that we’ve been able to leave other issues at the door and focus on what curlews need.

The Recovery Plan identifies 12 Important Curlew Areas, including the two (Hiraethog and Ysbyty Ifan) in which the LIFE project is working with farmers and landowners to increase curlew productivity. The Plan also highlights the multiple benefits – for nature, carbon-storage and flood management – that management for curlews can deliver. Resources are desperately needed for work in all the ICAs, to enable farmers and organisations to collaborate. And Welsh Government policy decisions on farming, woodland-planting and planning policies need to benefit curlews if the birds are to flourish here in the longer-term.

You can watch the launch (45 minutes) and download the Action Plan for the recovery of Curlews in Wales at www.curlewwales.org. The films illustrate that many farmers want to do the right thing. We know what is needed, the plan is there. Now it requires the political will and money to make it happen.

Julian Hughes – Head of Species
RSPB Cymru