A BIRD whose numbers have plummeted in Wales over the last 30 years is enjoying a recovery in Powys thanks to a conservation project.

The Eurasian curlew is currently one of the highest bird conservation priorities in Wales, with an estimated 90 per cent loss of curlew since 1993, at a rate of 6 per cent every year, leaving around 400 to 1,700 breeding pairs. It is listed as a rare upland bird, along with red grouse and golden plover.

But work to protect the bird in the Elenydd Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the Elan Valley, thanks to the Rare Upland Birds Project, has seen the number of nests identified this year rise.

With resources from Natural Resources Wales’ biodiversity funds for ecosystem resilience, along with cash from the Heritage Lottery and the Nature Recovery Fund, the project works to turn the trend on the decline of this important species, with positive results for this nesting season.

Five more nests were located compared to only one in previous years, and at least two more adult pairs were recorded in the valley, but it is likely there were more.

It has seen improvements to the management of bogs and cattle-grazed areas to help attract curlew to nest, increased monitoring capacity and nest protection practices. It is part of the Elan Links scheme that aims to support the area.

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Eluned Lewis, Elan Links scheme manager, said: “Monitoring the curlew can be quite tricky. They can nest in dense Molinia grass and so can be hard to find, needing specialist knowledge to spot them.

"We were able to invest more in monitoring this year, so we could better protect the nests we found from predators. Even so, while protecting the nests lets eggs hatch, chicks are still vulnerable to predators like foxes and monitoring becomes difficult as the chicks are well camouflaged in the dense vegetation. There is still more work to be done, but we’re seeing definite signs that things are on the up and we have successes to build on.

“Tenants and farmers from the surrounding areas have also been really helpful in letting us know where they’re seeing the curlew, and it’s causing quite a buzz in the community. The tenant in the Important Upland Bird Area (IUBA) in the valley has been actively involved in locating and protecting nests”.

Clive Hammer, a tenant at the Elenydd, added: “I’m really proud to have been part of the work to monitor the curlew. It’s a rare upland bird, and with 400 to 1,700 breeding pairs left, it’s vital that we manage the landscapes where they can nest and breed.

“It’s exciting to see that the project’s approach is bringing positive results, and I’m looking forward to seeing further developments over the next year.”

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