Operation Wader Project Officers report 2008
This report outlines the status of breeding lapwing and curlews on Dartmoor during the 2008-breeding season. Known breeding sites and populations were monitored from March – June to assess breeding habits, response to habitat works and breeding productivity. Comparisons are made with the previous reports covering the past three seasons 2005 - 2007. Prior to the nesting season, habitat management was assessed and most sites were in good condition for target wader species.
Lapwing numbers declined for the fourth consecutive season and distribution contracted further to one site only. At Hanger Down, the first clutches of lapwings survived their full incubation periods, hatching successfully for the second year running. Loss of chicks was still significant with only one possibly two reached fledging. Interestingly, this was the best fledging rate since 2005. Weather conditions were better than 2007. Predation remains the reason behind loss of chicks. Widecombe Commons were finally abandoned with only one male seen and at Wigford Down, a single male was again recorded.
Curlew numbers improved slightly with four definite pairs and one male seen and an additional bird recorded at a new site. Breeding was confirmed, one pair reached chick stage but these were lost within the first week.
Snipe numbers on a sample of sites remained stable although on some sites no snipe were recorded e.g. Wigford Down, but a slight increase was noted e.g. Bagtor.
Separate fieldwork established that 8 dunlin territories and a two pairs of golden plover were located. These species are not covered in this report.
This season saw the first concerted effort on the removal of carrion crows from 4 key sites, during March - May 2008. This action was concentrated on sites were wader eggs were confirmed i.e. Hanger Down (Lapwing) and Bagtor Mire (Curlew). A few other crows were removed from sites where pairs of curlew were noted.
The removal of crows has helped both lapwing and curlew to complete their incubation period and egg losses were significantly lower, however the losses at chick stage is now a problem and needs further investigation. A review of carrion crow removal and breeding population is covered in pages 11 – 16.
Recreational activity was again noted on Widecombe Commons particularly at Blackslade Mire, where the pair of curlew later relocated to a quieter site. Most other sites remained undisturbed.