Numenius phaeopus – whimbrel or, as we know it, da peerie quap
* Arctic visitor wintering mostly in Africa
* Population in Europe: up to 360,000 pairs
* Status in Northern Europe – Least Concern
* Population in the UK – less than 300 pairs (almost exclusively in Shetland)
* Lays four eggs
I have personally seen the decline in peerie quaps.
They were a common nesting bird to see and hear in the Lunnasting area through the 1970s but are now much fewer and it is almost all their larger cousin, da quap (Eurasian curlew – Numenius arquata), that you see and hear.
The reasons for the decline in the peerie quap, like many migratory species, will no doubt be complex.
It could be that their migratory routes and habitats have changed due to global warming. It may be that they are being over-hunted at their wintering sites in Africa. Interestingly, they can be legally hunted and eaten in some parts of Europe.
It may be that the high numbers of their larger cousin, the quap, have pushed them off their favourite nesting sites.
Or it could be predators. Craws, maas, swabbies, the mighty bonxie, and the elegant scooty-alan all like eggs and chicks to feed their hungry young.
On the ground, otters are now common again. We have our noble whitrit, the common cat and of course the recently introduced hedgehog and polecat. All are voracious predators.
The threat to the peerie quap is most likely a combination of many things, but one thing that it is not is wind turbines because the decline has been happening since the 1980s.
Sustainable Shetland’s case to try to stop the wind farm, now on hold at the Court of Session, hinges on Scottish Natural Heritage’s claim that there could be a loss of 3.7 whimbrel per annum.
Let’s look at this logically.
This amounts to one meal of eggs for a hedgehog or polecat in the nesting season. So this potential loss is easily countered by the predator control measures in Viking Energy’s habitat management plan, which can be read on their website.
There is no need to explain to readers of this page the cuts in services and the loss of jobs that the people in Shetland are facing.
The only proposal on the table which can fill the gap between the rate support grant and our expectations is Viking – a business in which 45 per cent of the shares are owned collectively by the people of Shetland.
The claims of Sustainable Shetland that one meal for a hedgehog every spring is more important than your wellbeing is truly ludicrous.
While I am sure that Sir Crispin Agnew QC knows his whimbrels from his curlew I suspect that few of the 800 members (really?) of Sustainable Shetland, who are picking up the rapidly increasing bill, knew the difference before this farce started.
Or are they picking up the bill? Is it true that their pleas for cash were answered by their own equivalent of Donald Trump?