A peatland restoration project in Eryri has heralded the return of two rare bird species for the first time in twenty years. The golden plover and curlew are the first breeding pairs in the area since the 1990s.

The restoration of the peatlands in the upper Conwy valley began four years ago in a collaboration between RSPB Cymru, National Trust Cymru and the Ritchie family. The Ritchies are tenants at Blaen y Coed, which is an upland farm within the Ysbyty Ifan estate. 

Areas of damaged and degraded peatland started to be restored in 2017. The goal was to create healthier habitats for upland birds, which had been in steady decline.

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Close monitoring of the habitat has shown the area has improved since the work began. Conservationists say pools are re-forming and specialist bog plants such as sphagnum mosses, cotton grasses and sundews are thriving once more. 

Wet peatland is an ideal habitat for birds such as the golden plover and curlew. Over the summer months, both species returned to the site to breed successfully within the re-wetted habitats. The chicks of both species have since been spotted by project workers. 

Dewi Davies, Project Manager for the Upper Conwy Catchment Project, said: “The transformation we’ve seen through our partnership work on this special landscape is remarkable. Where once we had an area of degraded blanket bog, we now have a rich habitat that provides a whole suite of vital ecosystem services like carbon storage, water filtration, flood protection and a home for wildlife.”

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RSPB Cymru Senior Conservation Officer, David Smith, said: “These successes show that working together towards a common goal of nature restoration does work, and it’s been great to see how the Ritchie brothers have succeeded in combining conservation delivery efforts with the everyday task of running their farm business. It's a brilliant story, that we hope will inspire similar projects in the future.”

Edward Ritchie, the tenant at Blaen y Coed said: “It’s been great to hear the curlew back at Blaen y Coed. The project has helped provide specialist machinery work for my brother and the results have also allowed for more scattered grazing by the sheep in the area, so we’re pleased with how things have gone.”

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