Cairngorms waders got a rousing welcome back to their breeding grounds on Friday 17 March, with an evening of music, poetry and talks.

A festive band of conservationists, farmers, nature enthusiasts and local communities came together at the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre to celebrate the arrival of ground nesting waders in Strathspey and Badenoch.

Waders are a group of enigmatic bird species, including Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank. Every year, they find a suitable place to breed in this area’s wetlands and farmlands.

The collection of arts and crafts on display at the event showed just how important waders are as a source of inspiration to local artists.

Thijs Claes, project officer for Curlew LIFE, on stage with bagpipe player Sandy MacDonnell.

Thijs Claes, project officer for Curlew LIFE, with piper Sandy MacDonnell. © Julie Ellis RSPB

The audience had the chance to learn more about waders, the challenges they’re facing and the action that’s being taken to help them, with talks from four different partnerships trying to create better prospects for these birds, whose numbers are sharply declining across the UK.

Patrick Laurie (Working for Waders) kicked off the evening, followed by Jos Milner (East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership) and Sarah West (Strathspey Wetlands and Waders Initiative). Kyle Cruickshank and Duncan Miller, two local farmers from Dulnain Bridge enriched the audience with their experience of farming with waders. Next, event organiser Thijs Claes, project officer for the Curlew LIFE project on RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes, ended the evening with a well-received plea to further establish the RSPB reserve as a site for Curlew conservation excellence.

Three musicians on stage playing guitar and clarsach, and singing, at the Curlew LIFE Waders Welcome event on Fri 17 Mar 2023.

Emma Wright on Clarsach harp, accompanying Tom Roulston and Manouk Bakermans. © Julie Ellis RSPB

No celebration of the Curlew, famous for its evocative song, would be complete without music. A variety of wader inspired musical renditions included Emma Wright on Clarsach harp, accompanying Tom Roulston and Manouk Bakermans, with Sandy MacDonnell playing Highland and bellow pipes.

Endearing Curlew footage accompanied by Merlyn Driver’s “Simmerdim” from the Curlew Sounds project concluded the evening, filling the room with an atmosphere of mixed emotions of both hope and concern.