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Helping wading birds in the Cairngorms National Park

28th March 2013

Farmers, crofters and land managers in the Cairngorms National Park are leading the way in an effort to create feeding sites for wader birds such as lapwing and redshanks.

Badenoch and Strathspey is the most important mainland area for breeding waders in the UK and the way in which farmers and crofters manage the land is a key factor in supporting the rich nature value of the area. The number of breeding waders in Badenoch and Strathspey has been in decline in recent years but providing good feeding sites, along with ensuring that wetlands and wet habitats are in good condition can help these species to flourish and thrive.

The Strathspey Waders and Wetlands Initiative (SWWI) is a local partnership which aims to halt the decline in farmland waders. With support from the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and agricultural agencies, including Scotland’s Rural College, CKD Galbraith and Agroecosystems, it is keen to see more small feeding sites created on farmland.

Karen Sutcliffe, Site Manager of RSPB Insh Marshes Nature Reserve, said: “One way of providing a feeding site is to create a small scrape. A scrape is a shallow depression in the ground that holds water from March to June. We are keen to encourage land managers to create them and we are delighted to say that these scrapes have already found a place on several farms in the Strathspey area.

“Even though a scrape only occupies a very small piece of ground, if it is irregular in shape, it can provide a substantial area of wet, muddy edges for wader chicks looking for food. Some scrapes have already been created and it is hoped that many more across several Strathspey farms will be completed this year.”

In tandem with scrape creation, a number of farms have embarked on rush management to create the type of short sward preferred by lapwing for nesting. This is being carried out with the SWWI topper, which is available at any time on free loan to any Strathspey farmer through a CNPA funded programme by simply contacting the RSPB at Insh Marshes.

The CNPA’s Land Management Advisor, Bruce McConachie commented: “It is great to see farmers in the Strathspey area leading the way in biodiversity action by using less productive pieces of ground to encourage other species, without having any negative effect on the production of quality livestock.”

If you would like more information on this work or you have a farm and would like to participate, please contact Karen Sutcliffe on 01540 661518, Bridget England on 07826894870 or Bruce McConachie on 01479 870550.