Print page

Bowland Wader Project

Curlew profile

Adult curlew

Bowland’s nationally important populations of breeding lapwings, curlews, redshanks, snipe and oystercatchers are declining. This is due to landscape-scale drainage of fields that used to be damp and boggy, and intensification of grassland management.

Traditionally managed, late-cut, diverse hay meadows have been replaced with early-cut monocultures of rye grass silage. As a result, Bowland’s wading birds have fewer areas in which to feed and successfully raise their chicks.

However, many farms still have areas where a more traditional farming style survives, and the birds continue to do well here - maintaining and increasing these important populations is key to halting their declines.

Encouraging farmers and landowners to enter land into agri-environment schemes ensures that these valuable habitats are managed sympathetically for these birds.

Project objectives

  • Reduce and reverse the decline in breeding waders
  • Focus project resources on key areas where good populations of breeding waders remain
  • Help these core populations to flourish and spread into surrounding areas by ensuring suitable habitats for breeding waders are maintained and restored on a landscape scale
  • This is achieved primarily by working with farmers and landowners to enter land into higher level stewardship agri-environment schemes
  • Work also with key partners, local communities and schools to highlight the issues and help achieve the above project objectives
  • Assist with research into understanding the reasons for wader declines and help implement species recovery programmes
  • Monitor breeding wader numbers annually on a selection of project farms

Progress so far

  • Bowland is one of the RSPB's Futurescapes - managing land for life on a landscape scale.
  • Bowland is also one of the RSPB's Farm Advice Focus Areas, areas of the UK where on-farm tailored advice is provided to boost populations of farmland bird species.
  • More than 170 farmers and landowners are currently working with the project to manage land sympathetically for breeding waders.
  • Farm-based training and demonstration events educate advisers and land managers on how to better manage farmland for breeding waders.
  • All of Bowland's primary schools have been involved with the project to enthuse local children and communities about breeding waders and the other special habitats and wildlife on their doorstep. This includes educational access visits to key farms to experience farming and wader conservation in action.
  • Project publicity ranges from attending agricultural events and shows to running an annual programme of guided walks on project farms as part of 'Festival Bowland'. Newsletters have been produced as well as articles for the press.
  • A team of RSPB staff, partner organisations' staff and volunteers assist with wader surveys on 30 farms each spring.

Work planned or underway

  • An ever-increasing number of farmers work with the Wader Project to manage their land more sympathetically for breeding waders. Farmer interest in these schemes continues to grow, so more and more land is coming into favourable management.
  • Farm-based training and demonstration events are delivered annually to support advisers and land managers in how to better manage farmland for breeding waders.
  • Growing contact with schools allows more and more children to become better connected with wildlife and farming. Local schools and communities in particular continue to be involved with the project and develop a greater understanding of the special habitats and wildlife on their doorstep.
  • Publicity, education and awareness raising initiatives are ongoing and include attending agricultural events and shows, an annual programme of guided walks on project farms, production of an annual newsletter and press pieces.
  • Annually, a team of RSPB and partner organisations’ staff and volunteers assist with breeding wader surveys across Bowland to monitor how these birds are responding to project led habitat management work.


  • More than 140 farmers have delivered positive management on their land for breeding waders. Over 89 of these are delivering wader habitat through agri-environment schemes.
  • Breeding wader populations have increased substantially on many key sites, eg. Chipping Moss lapwing population rose from a single pair in 2003 to 16 pairs in 2008. Barkin Gate Farm's lapwing population doubled within the first year of management under the Higher Level Stewardship scheme. Habitat management work at Landskill Farm has increased the lapwing population to over 30 pairs, one of the highest densities within the AONB.
  • Over £11 million secured from agri-environment schemes to support Bowland farmers in managing their farmland for breeding waders and other wildlife.
  • Nine training and farm demonstration events delivered on how to manage farmland for breeding waders.
  • Engendered a sense of local community pride in Bowland’s nationally important wader populations. An increasing number of local farm diversification projects benefit from their association with these special birds, e.g. ecotourism initiatives, holiday cottages on farms with breeding waders and produce from farms managing land in harmony with nature.
  • Annually, local schoolchildren learn about Bowland’s breeding waders on visits to farms working with the project. Kids get to see lapwings and their chicks in their natural habitat and learn the importance of farming to their conservation.
  • Major research (Lapwing Trial Management Project) completed to assess the effects of different levels of agri-environment scheme management on the breeding success of lapwings.



Bowland Wader Project - 2015 Newsletter

Bowland Wader Project - 2015 Newsletter

3.48Mb, PDF

Latest newsletter on the Bowland Wader Project

Date: 5 May 2015


Who to contact

Gavin Thomas
Conservation Advisor


Natural England
Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Ribble Valley Borough Council
Wyre Borough Council
Lancashire County Council
United Utilities
Ribble Rivers Trust
Cobble Hey Farm, near Garstang


This is an RSPB-funded project with contributions from Forest of Bowland AONB, Ribble Valley Borough Council and the Ribble Rivers Trust. The Lapwing Trial Management Project received funding from Natural England’s Action for Birds in England (AfBiE) programme.