Working for Waders at Galashiels

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There was a great turnout of farmers and land managers at the first Working for Waders event held in conjunction with Soil Association Scotland last week. Thirty seven people came from across the South of Scotland and beyond to exchange ideas on wader conservation at Threepwood near Galashiels, where host farmer Colin Strang Steel was on hand to discuss the work he has carried out to benefit wading birds. 

Colin has worked hard to integrate wader habitats into the running of Threepwood over the last ten years, and his efforts have paid off with the return of lapwings in rough areas of grassland below his house. Many of these areas have always been wet and unproductive, and by tweaking their management and building a system of “wader scrapes”, the farm has been able to turn unprofitable land into a natural oasis. Visiting farmers were on hand to quiz Colin on the practicalities of doing similar work on their land, and expert advisors joined the discussion from RSPB Scotland, Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) and Tweed Forum. 

During the course of the event, attendees were also shown heather cutting and the impact of conservation grazing, and there was a chance for some to air concerns about forest expansion and the impact that trees can have on wader productivity. There was then a constructive discussion about the role of predator control and the realities of delivering this kind of work in a modern landscape. 

Patrick Laurie runs the Soil Association’s Farming with Nature program and was on hand to facilitate the day. He afterwards said “this is the first time that Working for Waders has gone out to gather ideas from people on the ground, and the reaction has been really positive. Lots of farmers are tired of being blamed for the decline of iconic birds like lapwings and curlews, and it’s clear that people are keen for a change of direction. There are plenty of things that farmers can do which will benefit waders and also contribute to the profitability of their business; today was about recognizing that, and demonstrating that conservation can work hand in hand with modern agriculture”. 

This was echoed by Julia Stoddart, who sits on the the Working for Waders Raising Awareness and Best Practice Action Group. Julia said, “Wading birds need direct, on-the-ground action to halt and reverse their decline. Farmers and other land managers are best placed to carry out the vital conservation work required, and support to enable this work to happen is the driving force of the Working for Waders initiative. Events like today’s are crucial to getting the message out that waders can be saved, and that practical help exists to achieve positive change. We’re looking forward to following up with the farmers, gamekeepers and factors who came along to turn words into actions”.

Working For Waders