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Wading in to help waders

20th November 2009

Farmers, crofters and land managers with an interest in helping waders in the Cairngorms National Park are being urged to consider applying for government funds to help protect and enhance habitats for breeding waders to ensure the area remains a stronghold for birds such as lapwing, redshank, curlew and snipe.

Badenoch and Strathspey is the most important mainland area for breeding waders in the UK and farmers and crofters – and how the land is managed – is a key factor in supporting such high densities. However, despite the area being a stronghold, the numbers of breeding waders in Badenoch and Strathspey has declined by 28 per cent between 2000 and 2005 with lapwing numbers showing the most worrying decrease (76 per cent).

Three farms near Carr-Bridge having just been awarded £9,000 in the latest round of funding announcements from the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) Rural Priorities scheme. The land area covers some 28 hectares of wetland and grassland and a further 38 hectares of habitat mosaics such as scrub, wetland, grassland, tall herbs and riparian woodland.

The application for SRDP funds was submitted as part of the Strathspey Waders Initiative, a local partnership which aims to halt the dramatic decline in farmland waders and the farms were supported in their application by policy advisors at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

One of the farmers involved said “I am happy to manage for waders on my farm. I would not have made an SRDP application if it had not been for the support of the Strathspey Wader Initiative.”

Karen Sutcliffe, the Insh Marshes Site Manager for the RSPB said: “RSPB Scotland welcomes the opportunity this partnership offers to target SRDP funds towards the nationally important breeding wader population on Strathspey farms. Declines in this population in recent years are of serious concern and ensuring that wetland and wet grassland habitats are kept in good condition is essential to its survival. We believe that this partnership can help do that by supporting collaborative SRDP applications with a focus on breeding wader habitats throughout the length of Strathspey.”

With three new farms now involved in the Strathspey Wader Initiative that brings the total number of farms in the area using wader friendly farming techniques to nine and it is hoped that more will come on board.

Alastair MacLennan, a board member of the CNPA and Nethybridge farmer, has been managing his land for breeding waders for some time. He said: “I would encourage land managers, farmers and crofters in the area to look at the land they are working, look to their neighbours perhaps and then look to the CNPA’s Land Management Support Officers for advice on how they too could put forward an application to the SRDP and in turn help save our wonderful farmland waders.

“Many of the land management techniques are straightforward to implement and involve actions such as cutting rashes and carefully controlled grazing.”

Stephen Corcoran, Cairngorms Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) Officer added “the evocative call of a curlew and the noisy display of lapwings are some of the special qualities of the Strath, and are closely associated with land management. Action for breeding waders is a priority for the Cairngorms LBAP and the Cairngorms National Park, and this initiative hopes to help safe guard these birds so that we can all continue to appreciate them.”

The next deadline for applications to SRDP’s Rural Priorities fund is February 2010. For more advice and assistance on working up proposals and going through the application process please contact Zoë Taylor on tel 01479 870522 / email: [email protected] or Gordon McConachie on tel: 01479 870574 / email: [email protected]

The next major survey of farmland waders on over 50 farms in the area will take place in 2010 – International Year of Biodiversity – and volunteers will be sought to help with this.