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Nature / New project encourages crofters to look after waders

A lapwing with chick. Photo: AmyMillard/RSPB

A NEW project is launching in Shetland to help farmers and crofters reverse the dramatic decline in wader numbers over recent years.

While Shetland is faring better than the rest of Scotland, where curlew numbers have dropped by more than 60 per cent over the last 25 years, the isles continue to be home to a high number of waders.

However, the number of curlews here have also declined by as much as 37 per cent over recent years, according to figures from Shetland Amenity Trust.

Curlew numbers have declined by 60 per cent in Scotland. Photo; Ian Francis/RSPB

All waders depend on farming and crofting practices that maintain their favoured sites like wetlands and wet grasslands lightly grazed in the spring.

A new 10-month project will now give a group of 10 land managers an opportunity to learn about the birds on their own land and what they need to successfully nest and raise chicks.

The ParkLife project is a partnership led by Shetland Livestock Marketing Group (SLMG) with RSPB Scotland, Scottish Organic Producers Association, SAC Consulting, NFU Scotland, Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Islands Council, as well as a small number of land managers also involved.

The participants will collect information on their fields during spring and summer, such as the sward length, the plants they find, and the birds they see.

RSPB conservation advisor in Shetland Nathalie Pion said: “Waders depend on how farmers and crofters manage their land. Farmers’ knowledge and skills are key to their protection.”

SLMG chairman Cecil Eunson encouraged farmers or crofters interested in participating in the project to get in touch.

He said: “With current uncertainties around the future of agri-environment schemes, it is very important that the agricultural sector engages in thinking about how we can best manage our environment.”

Due to current Covid-19 restrictions, training will be delivered online and support will be provided remotely.

Anyone interested in taking part should apply before 19 April using this link.