Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) have joined forces to celebrate Northern farmers making a significant contribution to Curlew conservation.
Curlews were added to the UK red list of threatened species in in December 2015, and are considered to be the most pressing bird conservation priority in the UK.
Nominations for The Farmland Curlew Award 2023 are now open, and the winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at this year’s Great Yorkshire Show on Wednesday 12 July.
Farmers from Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, East Yorkshire, South and West Yorkshire, Tyne Tees and Northumberland are eligible for nomination.
Jayne Dyer from the YAS, said: “The Yorkshire Agricultural Society is pleased to be working with Nidderdale AONB to celebrate Curlew conservation in the North of England. The Farmland Curlew Award rewards farmers who create a safe haven for this iconic bird.”
The breeding population of Curlews have nearly halved since the mid-90s and in some parts of the UK there is a risk they will disappear in the next 20 years.
Paul Noyes, Wader Project Officer for the British Trust for Ornithology, said: “Recognising and celebrating actions farmers take to benefit Curlew, no matter how big or small, is crucial if we are to halt and reverse the catastrophic declines we’ve seen over the last few decades.”
The Curlew is an iconic bird in Nidderdale, loved for its evocative call.
Matthew Trevelyan, Farming in Protected Landscapes Officer at Nidderdale AONB, said: “The Farmland Curlew Award has been created to ensure people are aware of this crisis. We also want to highlight the good farming practices that increase breeding success.”
The Nidderdale Way signposts are marked with the image of a Curlew in flight. Conservation efforts in the AONB help ensure it is a stronghold for the bird, placing Nidderdale AONB at the forefront of this internationally important conservation work.
Matthew Trevelyan added: “The AONB is working in partnership with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, who are generously providing prizes. The Curlew Award will be awarded alongside the Tye Trophy, a long-standing award at the Yorkshire Show, recognising the contribution of farming to nature conservation.”
The seven county winners will each receive an engraved plaque and framed certificate. All winners will receive two complimentary tickets and a parking pass for the Great Yorkshire Show, and invited to a reception following the ceremony.
Winners will also be encouraged to host a farm walk the following autumn to share best practice with other farmers.
Professor Russell Wynn, Manager of the Curlew Recovery Partnership, said: “Farmers play a vital role in Curlew conservation, especially as the majority of England’s breeding Curlews are found in farmland habitats. We therefore welcome this new Farmland Curlew Award as it not only recognises and rewards farmers for their hard work protecting Curlews, but also provides an opportunity to highlight and share best practise – this will be of vital importance as we work with policy colleagues to ensure that appropriate measures enabling farmers to support Curlew conservation on their land are available in the enhanced Countryside Stewardship and the new Countryside Stewardship Plus schemes.”
Nominations are asked to include as much information as possible about the work their nominated farmers are doing to conserve the curlew. A panel of experts will select regional winners based on the integration of curlew conservation within their commercial farming operations.
The award panel are interested in farmers who have taken modest measures, year on year, to ensure curlew chicks fledge successfully.
Matthew Trevelyan commented: “One of the most effective things farmers can do is to delay mowing curlew meadows until the middle of July. Consider using a smaller mower and taking your time in these fields. By firstly mowing around the outside of the field and then splitting the meadow and working out towards the edges, we can ensure fledged chicks can be shepherded to safety; ideally into an area where there is still cover from predators.”
The environmentalist and author of Curlew Moon, Mary Colwell, said: “Farmers hold the key to the future of birds like Curlew, so I’m delighted to see this award recognising the wonderful work being done to help them.”
Closing date for nominations is 31 March, 2023, and entries can be emailed to Matthew Trevelyan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit, Kelvin Smith.