Taking the inititative event
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The Working for Waders Initiative is taking active steps to reverse the decline of wading birds in Scotland. In April 2018 a range of projects were developed for delivery throughout the year.

This event will update on these projects and provide an opportunity for attendees to shape future actions.

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Patrick Laurie
Autumn Roundup
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Working for Waders is still very active behind the scenes as the project approaches Christmas. We’re busy with plans for the new year, but it’s important to mention three new publications and releases from other groups which our supporters might find interesting.

A fantastic new video on curlew conservation has been released by filmmaker Billy Clapham entitled Keeper of the Call. The film contains some beautiful footage of curlews breeding on farmland, balancing a tale of loss with some encouraging hope for these birds in the stunning Welsh Marches and is well worth a watch.

Mike Smart’s full write-up of September’s Scottish Curlew Conference was published on the Curlew Call website. This is an excellent summary of the wide ranging, though provoking talks which took place at Battleby.

Building on the success of the various curlew conferences across the UK, Simon Lester published an excellent article in November 14th’s Country Life magazine which examined the challenges facing curlews across the UK. Simon was headkeeper at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project between 2008 and 2017 and has a unique perspective on wader conservation. The article was also accompanied by comment from HRH The Prince of Wales, who praised curlews for their “wonderful, brave and irresistible” charm.

Working for Waders promotes conservation for many species of wading birds, and we are really pleased to see attention being drawn to the curlew’s plight over the last few months. At the same time, we are looking forward to progress of our own in the coming year, and we are committed to promoting and encouraging activities which prevent the loss of Scotland’s wading birds. 


Working for Waders
Scottish Curlew Conference
Some of the attendees at Battleby

Some of the attendees at Battleby

More than a hundred people attended a conference entitled “Whaup’s Up? – The Status and Future of Curlew in Scotland” which was held on Thursday 27th September 2018 at Battleby Conference Centre near Perth.

This was the final conference in a sequence being held across the UK and Ireland which looked at the tragic decline of curlews. Working for Waders was well represented on the day by a number of project partners, and a presentation was made on our project and its story so far. You can access all the presentations on CurlewCall.org and find out more about the speakers who contributed to the discussion.

There was plenty of optimism at Battleby, and there were some glimmers of hope despite tales of decline and loss. Curlews are some of our most loved wading birds, but many other wader species will benefit from collaborative conservation measures designed to protect the whaup in Scotland.

We look forward to being part of the solution to curlew declines, and this conference was definitely a step in the right direction. Thanks are due to everyone who organised the day and provided an independent platform for discussion and progressive collaboration!

Working for Waders
Summer Fairs
Fergus Ewing MSP shows an interest in Working for Waders at Moy in August

Fergus Ewing MSP shows an interest in Working for Waders at Moy in August

A report on the Highland Fieldsports Fair and Galloway Country Fair by Julia Stoddart MRICS – Head of Policy, SACS

A surprisingly dry Highland Fieldsports Fair at Moy Estate in the Highlands brought good crowds out on 3 and 4 August. Working for Waders was hosted on project partner SACS’ stand located on the main arena, where our bright orange banner and collection of French wader confidence decoys attracted a wide range of interest. 

The Highlands and Islands are a key area for wader recovery, so perhaps it was not surprising to meet so many people who were interested in the project. Most were already well-informed about the severe declines in breeding wader numbers, but were unaware of W4W and heartened to hear about our work; many asked how they could get involved and help. Where visitors to the stand were unaware of the official statistics, when prompted they were still able to recognise declines in waders in their local area, particularly over the course of several decades. Many childhood or teenage memories of moors, fields and coastlines full of curlew and plover were discussed, and the sudden realisation of what has been lost led instantly to questions of how to fix the problem; solutions put forward by our visitors focused on land management, preventing habitat loss and ensuring that the abundance of key predator species was balanced against the needs of vulnerable wading birds. 

Scores of the project’s branded information postcards disappeared over the course of the two days, both to visitors who stopped to chat and to people passing by. On the Friday, several high-profile project supporters called in to discuss the latest Working for Waders work, and to have their photograph taken with one of our prize plastic curlews: Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing, Stòras Uibhist Vice-Chair Rory MacGillivray and SLE Chair David Johnstone all expressed their interest and support. 

Two weeks later, Working for Waders travelled to Galloway Country Fair, again hosted on the SACS stand. A smaller fair with a broader demographic, the Saturday unfortunately saw wet weather that dampened attendance. Nevertheless, a few retired farmers and land managers called in to ask what the project was about; more reminiscence about wader abundance of decades past reinforced the clear importance of rapid remedial action. The Sunday saw the return of warm, sunny weather, but interest in the project remained muted with a few exceptions. A number of children attending with their parents asked about the plastic decoy waders and why the project was needed, listening wide-eyed to the story of the waders’ decline. It is interesting that children often seem to feel much more strongly about conservation issues, and are keen to take action to help; perhaps this is due to youthful optimism, and a view of the problem unsullied by land management politics and barriers to change. 

A few postcards were picked up and taken away over the course of the day, but attempts to engage people in conversation were more difficult than at the other country shows and game fairs of Summer 2018. This was undeniably frustrating, as the pattern of land use in south-west Scotland – and the prevalence of land use change from pasture and moor to commercial forestry – surely makes the area a prime target for Working for Waders engagement. But where there is a challenge, there is also an opportunity; in this case, travelling around Scotland with the project allows us to assess anecdotally how well-informed stakeholders are, helping to direct the project’s work going forward. As the three project action groups progress with their respective work, and the project branding begins to bed-in and gain traction, we are building strong foundations for success dependent on maintaining our positive momentum. 



Working for Waders
Survey Form
Are you Working for Waders?

Are you Working for Waders?

Lots of work has been going on behind the scenes over the past few weeks as we set up the recording systems we need to gather information about waders in Scotland. Our new website has attracted lots of enquiries and messages of support from charities, farmers and birdwatchers across the country, from Orkney to Kent. We're really keen to build on the impact we have made so far!

One of our main aims is to find out who is doing what and where, and our survey form was put together to help us identify key areas for waders and wader conservation.

Please take a few minutes to get in touch if you are Working for Waders - the information we receive via the form will help to establish a basic foundation for the project to build on. We have just produced a digital version of the form which can be filled in HERE, and we hope that all our supporters will build on the steady flow of input which has been coming in over the last few weeks by submitting some basic information about their work.

We are also currently working on a map to record the information from survey returns, and we hope that this will soon be live on the website. The map should help to highlight priority areas for future work, and several drafts have been put forward over the last few weeks.

In the meantime, several people have been in touch to talk about waders and share their observations of birds and wildlife during a hot, dry summer. Waders are very special birds, and we have been thrilled to find that there is great public interest in conserving these iconic species.

Working for Waders
The Royal Highland Show
The Working for Waders stand in the NSA Scotland tent

The Working for Waders stand in the NSA Scotland tent

The Working for Waders project made its first public appearance last weekend the Royal Highland Show thanks to support from the National Sheep Association Scotland. The project partners worked together to staff a small stand in the NSA Scotland tent throughout the Show, chatting to farmers and members of the public about the decline of threatened and iconic farmland waders like curlews, lapwings and oystercatchers. 

Many of the farmers we spoke to were well aware that wading birds are in trouble, and we heard some devastating stories of loss and decline. An Ayrshire shepherd described curlew calls as “the sound of my childhood”, then explained how the birds steadily dwindled to a final collapse on his hill farm in 2012. There have been no curlew breeding attempts on his land in over five years, and this story rings true for several wading bird species across Scotland. 

Even in the midst of decline and loss, there was an encouraging feeling of optimism that Working for Waders represented a new approach. Several farmers expressed their frustration at always being blamed for the decline of wildlife and biodiversity, and many were encouraged that Working for Waders is involving a wide range of stakeholders from the outset. 

Collaboration is a key strength of the Working for Waders project, and we’re looking forward to building on this in the coming months.

Working for Waders
Visit to Glen Prosen
Some of the Working for Waders group at Glen Prosen

Some of the Working for Waders group at Glen Prosen

The Working for Waders Raising Awareness and Sharing Best Practice Group met at Glen Prosen this week to see some of the work being undertaken to conserve waders on an upland hill farm and grouse moor.

Estate Manager Bruce Cooper (who is a joint chair of the sub-group) was on hand to talk visitors through the estate’s management, particularly in relation to waders breeding in lambing fields and the significance of commercial forestry plantations.

The team at Glen Prosen has spent a lot of time thinking about how best to mitigate farming and forestry for the benefit of waders, and their success was obvious during a short walk along a farm track with oystercatchers, lapwings and curlews providing a constant backdrop of song. Lapwing chicks scuttled through the rushes, and common sandpipers called from the riverside on a gloriously warm June morning.

Representatives from SNH, RSPB Scotland, GWCT and the Heather Trust discussed the practicalities of habitat management, and there was a good turn-out from local gamekeepers, naturalists and land managers who all joined the discussion. Particular emphasis was placed on marking vulnerable nests in areas of agricultural activity, and visitors were able to draw on experience which seems to suggest that a single well-defined route around lambing fields allows the shepherd to minimize the risk of crushing eggs and disturbing chicks. This may be more applicable to some farms than others, but this turned into a useful discussion which demonstrated the value of sharing knowledge between partners.

Working for Waders is still in its infancy, but the initiative has great potential to make a real difference for wading birds.

Working for Waders
Time for Action!
A curlew's nest on heather moorland

A curlew's nest on heather moorland

Agreement, in principle, has been sought to fund a suite of actions with input from a range of stakeholders including British Trust for Ornithology, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, James Hutton Institute, Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Scottish Agricultural College, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scotland’s Rural College and a broad cross-section of landowners and managers. A detailed implementation plan is being developed to deliver on these actions over the next 10 months. The actions include:


1) Identify wader priority areas

This will help to iInform decisions about where to focus management and other conservation-related actions for waders.

2) Produce a Wader Project Map

Develop and expand the map showing local action for waders across Scotland.

3) Explore Wader Facilitation Fund

Work up concept for ‘farmer cluster’ working for wader conservation in future agri-environment schemes to inform future facilitation fund.

4) Identify solutions to blockages to working collaboratively

Produce short report identifying main issues and proposing practical solutions to blockages.

5) Carry out wader monitoring & conservation in East Scotland

Based on continued farm survey, advisory, liaison and management planning work.  

6) Develop wader fieldwork guidance

Develop guidance material to help a wide variety of stakeholders select the most appropriate field methods for collecting information on wader numbers and productivity.

7) Scope a Wader information Hub

An information Hub will provide a central repository for wader data to allow the outcomes of ongoing management and monitoring to be widely reported and shared.

8) Develop a Wader Website

Website as “project home” will contain information on waders/project partners.

9) Produce Best Practice Guidance on waders

Produce Best Practice Guidance on managing land for waders as part of the Principles of Moorland Management.


The recent social and mainstream media focus on SNH’s granting of a licence to explore whether wader recovery can be improved by the reduction of non-breeding ravens in Strathbraan has resulted in some asking how this decision links to Working for Waders. The answer is that the licence application was developed before Working for Waders was set up to consider actions. However data generated from the trial should help inform Working for Waders moving forward. Future blogs on this site will provide further details.


Working for Waders
Working Together
Actions are being outlined

Actions are being outlined

Our waders are returning to hills, glens and farmlands with their charismatic calls and distinctive flight patterns and silhouettes. Their numbers are still in worrying decline but together we can work to improve their future. 

Partners in Working for Waders are collaborating on several actions which they hope to deliver this year, including:

·       Develop a trial management project for waders; 

·       Scope a Facilitation Fund to provide on-the-ground support and guidance;

·       Develop Best Practice Guidance for wader management; 

·       Map wader ‘hot spots’ and ‘cooling spots’; 

·       Develop guidance on wader monitoring methods; 

·       Hold an autumn Working for Waders conference and/or later parliamentary reception.

If you have other ideas or wish to be involved we would be delighted to hear from you. The groups are all flexible and new members (whether short-term or longer-term) will be welcomed at any time.  

Funding is being sought from a range of sources including a Working for Waders Challenge Fund which is being developed to support work in this coming year. 

We also have a Working for Waders map which helps to show the breadth and depth of wader activity across Scotland. This is a great way of showing people at a glance what is happening. We are aware there is a lot more going on than is shown on the map at the moment. We would be grateful if you could let us know details of work you are involved with helping waders to add to the map via this simple form.

Working for Waders
Working for Waders on BBC Alba!
Julia Stoddart on BBC Alba

Julia Stoddart on BBC Alba

Julia Stoddart from the Raising Awareness & Best Practice Action Group and Skye crofter Charlie MacKinnon were interviewed last night on BBC Alba An La programme about wader declines and the Working for Waders initiative. 

Part of the interview is in english and Seonaidh has kindly offered to provide a copy with sub-titles in the next couple of weeks.

This is the first part in a series of Working for Waders news stories planned by BBC Alba over the next few weeks.

Working for Waders
The First Meetings
The Raising Awareness and Developing Best Practice Group meeting at Battleby

The Raising Awareness and Developing Best Practice Group meeting at Battleby

The Working for Waders Action Groups have met for the first time. Volunteers from a range of backgrounds came together to start to put flesh on the ideas generated to date on how to reverse the declines in our waders.

The groups are focusing on:

  • collaborative action on the ground
  • gathering information
  • raising awareness and developing best practice

The groups are formed of willing volunteers and are open to anyone with an interest in and experience of waders.

A summary of actions proposed for delivery this year and beyond will be added to this blog soon.

To find out more about Working for Waders and how to join in please contact the project administrator.

Working for Waders
Call for Volunteers!
We need your help to care for endangered species like curlews!

We need your help to care for endangered species like curlews!

Populations of wading birds like curlew, lapwing and oystercatcher have declined markedly across Scotland: since 1994, curlew have declined by 61%, lapwing by 53% and oystercatcher by 40%. 

Two workshops, held earlier in 2017, (the overview report is available here) highlighted that there was wide consensus on the need to halt and, where possible, reverse these declines. 

The Working for Waders Initiative has been established to bring people together to encourage new ways of thinking and working, especially through the development of collaborative activities and actions on the ground. 

What is the Initiative trying to do? 

Over this winter, we are focussing on two main goals: 


  • To identify and highlight where actions for waders are already being taken on the ground.
  • To flesh-out what needs to be done in practice to take forward three key actions identified by participants at the wader workshops.


To achieve these goals we need the support and engagement of all those concerned about wader declines in Scotland.

We know that management to help protect waders is already being established at a local level across Scotland. We want to map where these actions are taking place, not only to help emphasise that there already is active management taking place on the ground, but also to help form a context and framework around which additional actions can be built.

We already have brief details of where some actions are taking place (the map as it currently stands is available here) and we thank those groups who have already submitted those details. But we know that there are others out there. So if you are involved in any local level actions for waders that we have not already been told about then please complete and return the simple form that is available here.

The workshops, held earlier this year, also identified the need for three key actions to help address wader declines: 

  • Delivering results-led collaborative action on the ground.
  • Collating data and identifying hot spots and zones for waders.
  • Raising awareness of the plight of waders and developing and sharing best practice to reverse these declines.

There is, however, a need to flesh-out how each of these key actions can actually be achieved in practice and an overview of what is expected from each Action Group is available here ->

Information Needs Group

Landscape Collaboration Action Group

Raising Awareness and Sharing Best Practice Group

We are looking for volunteers to join these Action Groups and help - over the next few months - to develop recommendations as to how each action can be delivered, including who should be involved and the resources and commitments needed.

We envisage that each Action Group will have a convenor, or ideally two co-convenors, who will take the lead in driving the work of each group forward. The current Facilitation Team will be expanded to include the co-convenors of each Action Group so that collectively we can ensure that the process remains as inclusive and cross-sectoral as possible.

Please get in touch and indicate which of the three groups you want to contribute to.


Working for Waders
Get Involved!
Farmers can play a major role in conservation

Farmers can play a major role in conservation

Working for Waders is looking for your help. People, with experience, knowledge and some time are needed to identify practical steps to reverse the decline of waders.

We have all agreed that urgent action is required to save the curlew, the lapwing, the golden plover and the other waders whose numbers are dropping. Now is the time to take action. 

You can get involved by joining one of the following three Action Groups:


  • Delivering results-led collaborative action on the ground;
  • Collating data and identifying hot spots and zones for waders; and
  • Raising awareness of the plight of waders and developing and sharing best practice to reverse these declines.
Briefs have been drawn up for each of these Action Groups, giving some outline details on the purpose of each group. Access the briefs here. These briefs have been developed from the ideas raised during the stakeholder workshops held earlier this year. Please help to put these into practice. 

Please put your name forward using this contact form by Wednesday, 25th October, if you would like to join one of these Action Groups.

An interactive map showing all the existing actions and projects contributing to Working for Waders will be available shortly. Many thanks to all who have submitted details on their work, but please let us know if you are involved with wader recovery work but have not yet told us what you are up to. These local projects are a vital part of Working for Waders and will form a core to build out from.

Working for Waders
Project Update, September 2017
Breeding redshank need our help

Breeding redshank need our help

Thank you to everybody who has given their time, energy and thoughts to help develop ideas for Working for Waders. The next steps are set out below.

How can you get involved?

Groups of interested people are needed to take forward the themes and ideas identified during the two workshops held in May 2017 to turn these into actions. Volunteers will be sought soon. 

The provisional titles for the three Action Groups are:

1. Collecting and sharing information on wader populations for zoning and targeted management;

2. Raising awareness and sharing best practice on waders;

3. Halting the decline of waders at the landscape scale: developing a collaborative partnership to achieve outcome based management. 

Summaries of each Action Group will be circulated at the end of September with a request for volunteers to join. In addition, guidance will be available from SNH licensing on licensing principles and requirements to support Working for Waders and proposals arising from it. A Co-ordination Group will be convened to oversee the establishment of the Action Groups.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like any further information please let us know by commenting on this blog or by getting in touch!

Working for Waders
Project Update, June 2017
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This initiative, which is being supported by Scotland’s Moorland Forum, has been established to develop the concepts established during the Understanding Predation project that was completed in May 2016.

The aim is to establish a programme of action that will enhance the work that is already taking place for waders, and encourage the development of new initiatives. The scope of the programme of action may include providing advice about practical management techniques for waders, establishing a common monitoring protocol, so that the results obtained will be comparable, and providing access to the latest research.

Stakeholders are developing the programme of action, and facilitation is being provided by a consortium of organisations that includes: BTO, SNH, SRUC, JHI and Scotland’s Moorland Forum.


To promote an understanding of this initiative and collect views about the concept, two workshops were held during May. A broad range of delegates attended and a summary report from the workshops will be available shortly.

The workshops have confirmed there is a consensus developing around the form that this initiative should take. A third workshop in July was considered, but as there is already a clear consensus, this additional workshop would serve little purpose. The intention is to use the time to develop the details of the programme of action and to consider holding a further meeting or workshop, later in the year.

Scottish Government

To ensure that there is support for this initiative in government, the summary report from the workshops will be sent under a covering letter to Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform. This letter will be copied to a wide range of organisations, and the feedback to the letter will be used to further develop the programme of action.

Information about Wader Initiatives

To be effective, the programme of action should be linked to all the initiatives that are already in progress or planned. A form has been circulated to gather details of such initiatives and this is available to download. Anyone who is already ‘Working for Waders’, or who is planning an initiative with a focus on waders, is asked to use this form to provide the programme of action with details of the work.


Further updates will be added to this blog as the programme of action develops. Any comments will be welcome, and you can use the comments facility below to submit these. If you wish to submit your comments in private, please use the Contact Form on the Moorland Forum’s website.

Working for Waders
What is Working for Waders?
Wading birds like oystercatchers are under threat

Wading birds like oystercatchers are under threat

Working for Waders

This is an initiative to bring people together to address the decline of breeding waders in Scotland. It follows on from the Understanding Predation project and will build on the principles of collaboration and co-production established by that project.

Understanding Predation combined local knowledge with scientific evidence to develop a shared understanding of predator-prey interactions. Much consensus emerged from this process, the strongest of which concerned the need to work together to address the decline of waders through a combination of habitat and predator management. 

Development of the programme of action is developing fast and further information will be added to the blog when it becomes available.

Why do we need to focus on Waders?

Waders like curlew, lapwing and oyster catcher have suffered from substantial population declines in recent years (curlew down 61% since 1994, lapwing down 53% and oystercatcher down 40%). Those who work and use land in Scotland recognise the need to address these declines. The Understanding Predation report identified that the most important influences affecting waders were habitat, predation and interactions between these.


Working for Waders