Literature and nature combine to celebrate curlews

Danny Griffith

Friday 11 May 2018

Curlew Numenius arquata, bathing in shallow pool, Geltsdale RSPB reserve

Curlew Crisis Month culminates in a special event held at the world-renowned Hay Literature Festival in Hay-on-Wye

On Friday 1 June RSPB Cymru will host a special event at the 2018 Hay literature Festival to raise awareness for the curlew, in partnership with acclaimed Writer, Producer and Conservationist Mary Colwell. 

Guests will enjoy an illustrated talk of Mary’s newly released book, Curlew Moon, which takes the reader on a gentle tale of discovery, tying in with the natural history of the curlew that has inspired us for millennia. The event will also play host to an exclusive panel discussion with RSPB’s Global Conservation Director Martin Harper and Welsh Assembly Member and curlew Species Champion Mark Isherwood AM, as they look toward a brighter future for our most endangered wildlife. 

The event will celebrate the end of the RSPB’s Curlew Crisis Month which takes place throughout May, highlighting the problems facing curlews by building support for their conservation via a series of walks and events across the UK. 

Curlews are rapidly declining

Sadly, there are growing fears that breeding curlews2 could be lost from Wales within the next few decades if their fortunes do not improve. Unfortunately, the numbers of curlew in Wales have declined by 80% since the 1980s, breeding pairs have virtually disappeared from lowland areas and though they are still relatively widespread in the uplands, their numbers are low and they are only just holding on in pockets. Due to the dramatic declines, curlews are now Red Listed in the Birds of Conservation Concern in Wales 3 report – further highlighting the urgent need for action.

Farmers and landowners play a crucial role in the curlew’s future. From Sorcha Davies on her Elan Valley farm, John Jones at Tŷ Uchaf Eidda in Betws y Coed and Tony Davies at Henfron farm, RSPB Cymru is working5 closely with many farmers in Wales to make sure they can provide suitable habitat for this iconic species. 

This summer a range of organisations and individuals will be out surveying for breeding curlew, finding out where they are and connecting with the farmers and land owners who can manage their land to give curlews a home. 

RSPB Cymru Biodiversity Manager, Stephen Bladwell, said: “There is no time to waste when it comes to curlews. We need to take action now because if not, they are likely to disappear from Wales in a generation’s time – then becoming a distant memory. However, no organisation or individual can do this alone. There are farmers and land managers across Wales and the UK also working hard to help curlews breed successfully on their land. By working together with these farmers and land owners, and by trialling new management methods in the hope of improving breeding success, we hold hope the curlew will have a brighter future here in Wales.”

Conservationist and author of Curlew Moon, Mary Colwell, said: “To lose the curlew from Wales is to lose more than just one more species. Curlews are woven into Welsh heritage, poets such as Dylan Thomas were inspired by their haunting calls. Moorland, mountains, meadows and the curlew belong together - and I hope, by working in partnership with many different sectors we can make sure they continue play their part in the richness that is Welsh natural history.” 

If you would like to attend the Curlew Moon event, tickets can be purchased via the Hay Festival website at:



Follow all the latest RSPB Cymru news on Twitter at @RSPBCymru


For further information, please contact:

RSPB Cymru Communications Officer, Danny Griffith, on 01248 672850 / 


For a selection of images, please contact Danny Griffith

Editor’s notes:

1.The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

2.The curlew is the largest European wading bird, instantly recognizable with its long down-curved bill, streaked and speckled brown upperparts and long legs. An iconic bird of farmland and open moorland, it is well known for its call, which sounds like its name ‘cooorlee’ and its bubbling song. Curlew leave the uplands at the end of breeding season and winter in coastal areas where they feed.

3.‘Curlew Moon’ is published by HarperCollins Publishers. With a heritage stretching back 200 years, HarperCollins is one of the world’s foremost book publishers, with a catalogue ranging from cutting-edge contemporary fiction to award-winning apps and everything in between.

4.Hay Festival brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. The festivals inspire, examine and entertain, inviting participants to imagine the world as it is and as it might be. The 2018 festival will is held from 24 May – 3 June.

5.Our work with these farmers includes mowing vegetation and implementing suitable grazing levels to achieve a mosaic of taller, tussocky vegetation and shorter grassy areas for nesting and feeding. Restoration of wet areas by blocking grips and restoring traditional flower rich hay meadows can also improve habitat for feeding and nesting.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

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