World Curlew Day 2019
Mary Colwell has been leading work to conserve curlews across the UK, and her recent book Curlew Moon has helped to raise the profile of these important birds. Working for Waders interviewed her in the run-up to World Curlew Day 2019 to find out more about the event.
Q/ What’s the background to world curlew day?
Mary: After doing my 500 mile walk in 2016, it was obvious people love curlews. So many were sad to hear how badly they are doing and wanted to express that, and help in some way. Creating a World Curlew Day was an obvious way to join everyone together. Saving curlews is field-by-field conservation, it has to be locally based as only local farmers and landowners know what is happening on their land, but this is a nationwide problem. World Curlew Day is a chance for local action in a wider context. It began last year in 2017, let’s hope it grows and grows. Out of the 8 species of curlew worldwide, 2 have already gone extinct and the others are endangered. There is no room for complacency anywhere.
Q/ What will you be doing on April 21st?
Mary: I’ll be spending the day with people on Upton-on-Severn in Worcestershire with a group of curlew lovers who are showing local people where the curlews are breeding and we’ll be looking at them through telescopes and generally enjoying the sights and sounds of curlews on Easter Day.
Q/ What other events are you involved with to mark World Curlew Day?
Mary: I’ll be on Radio 4 on Saturday, the day before, on the Today Programme talking about how we can help them. I’ve also written a piece for the Guardian. I’ll be tweeting and FaceBooking and just doing what I can.
Q/ You ran a series of events on curlews across the UK in 2017 and 2018 - how did they differ?
Mary: The four national conferences, Ireland, Southern England, Wales and Scotland, were just wonderful events. You can read the reports on the curlewcall.org website. http://www.curlewcall.org/conferences/ Each one was booked out. The most uplifting thing was the willingness of different groups to work together to save the. Organisations that normally don’t see eye to eye worked together and are still working together. Game keepers, RSPB, BTO, farmers, birdwatchers, countryside NGOs etc sat around tables and made plans without acrimony. From the depths of my heart I hope this continues, for curlews but for all other wildlife too.
Q/ What did you take from Scottish event at Perth?
Mary: I loved the enthusiasm, but was daunted by the size of the problem in lowland Scotland. It was also disappointing to hear the figures coming out of Orkney. Even there, in their supreme hotspot, it seems they are in significant decline.
Q/ Are you seeing light at the end of the tunnel for curlews in Britain?
Mary: Far from that - but light is coming through the walls and ceiling making the path a little more illuminated! There is certainly more awareness and curlews are talked about a lot more, so that can only be a good thing. Brexit and what that means for the environment is still a big unknown, but there is so much that can be done outside of agri-schemes. Passion, love for the wildness of curlews and a desire to see and hear them, now and in the future, go a long way too.
Q/ Why should people care about curlews and other wading birds?
Mary: I suppose I would throw that back at the people who ask: why wouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t want beauty and wild song in their lives? And they tell us about the health of our coastlines, farmers fields, rough upland grazing, heather moorland and wetlands - curlews live across the UK, using all habitats apart from forests! If we have curlews in the UK, we have a land fit nor natural life. What better reason is there?
Mary Colwell is a producer and writer interested in all aspects of the natural world. Her book Curlew Moon was published by William Collins in 2018. She was interviewed by Patrick Laurie