Upland bird habitat

The rough damp tussocky pastures produced by extensive traditional management provide perfect nesting and chick rearing habitat for several species of ground nesting waders: lapwing, curlew, snipe, redshank and oystercatcher. These birds were once widespread on farms throughout the country but many are now listed as of conservation concern, with many experiencing declines of more than 50% in the past 30 years. Science has shown that failure to breed successfully is the main reason for population declines. Our Upland Birds project is working with farmers to enhance habitat for waders and other ground nesting birds during the breeding season.

A Curlew flying in to land in some grassWaders prefer to net in damp tussocky rush pastures but when rush cover becomes extensive, the birds will choose elsewhere to nest.  We are helping farmers to manage the rush in their fields, by cutting the rush in the late summer or autumn. It is important not to cut all the rush in a field as some species like snipe prefer to have more cover.

It is important for wader chicks to have wet places to feed and adults will often lead chicks a considerable distance to find water. We are helping farmers to put scrapes in the fields where birds bred to give chicks access to a vital food supply and help ensure their survival. Scrapes are shallow wet depressions which dry out in summer but are designed to have a continual wet muddy edge during the breeding season. This wet mud is full of insects and other invertebrate food which chicks can easily find.

A close up of a Black grouseUpper Nidderdale is one of the last remaining strongholds in England for black grouse. These nationally declining birds are surviving well here due to extensive farming and the variety of food and cover that provides.  The Upland Birds project encourages farmers not to intensify fields next to  the moorland edge and  plants small pockets of woodlands in ghylls in provide winter shelter and food for these birds.

By creating wide field margins and hedgerows with a deep base, farmers in upper Nidderdale are helping to increase numbers of grey partridge in the area.

In addition to traditional farming practices which provides vital habitat for upland birds, grouse moorland management affords a great level of protection to these birds as they are very vulnerable to predation by crows, foxes and other mammals.