Caithness wetlands and waders initiative

The wetlands and associated farmlands of Caithness support a range of declining or rare species, including a nationally important population of breeding waders, overwintering twite and the great yellow bumblebee.

Curlew | The RSPB


The RSPB is working in partnership with agriculturalists and farmers in Caithness to provide the best possible habitats for these species. 
Across Scotland, farmland waders have experienced worrying declines in recent years. The most recent Breeding Bird Survey report suggests a decline of 27 per cent for lapwing and 53 per cent for curlew in Scotland between 1995 and 2008. In some areas, the declines are much greater. In Strathspey for example, lapwing declines are as high as 60 per cent.
The scale of wader declines in Caithness is not known as yet. The Caithness Wetlands and Waders Initiative (CWWI) is acting now to ensure that habitat in the county is brought in to the best possible condition to maximise the chances of wader breeding success.
Caithness farms are also a stronghold for wintering twite but it has been lost from 20 per cent of its range in the last 40 years. Twite eat seeds all year round, and need a consistent supply through the breeding season and the winter. The CWWI is working to increase the area of seed rich habitats on Caithness farms.
Great yellow bumblebee
The great yellow bumblebee was once common across the UK but is now only found in very few parts of Scotland, including along the northern coast of Caithness. It is dependent on pollen and nectar for food. The CWWI is working to ensure that the area of flower rich habitats in Caithness are increased.


  • To provide a strategic approach to the provision of high-quality habitat for breeding waders, twite and the great yellow bumblebee through targeted Rural Priorities funding applications.
  • To foster a collaboration between conservationists, agriculturalists and land managers which pools skills to maximise delivery for key habitats and species in Caithness.
  • To identify land management projects (additional to RP options) of benefit to farms and key species and access funding to support them in Caithness.
  • To supply equipment and expertise for the delivery of land management initiatives eg rush control, grazing management, seed mixes, soil aeration and wetland creation and management.
  • To raise awareness of the importance of the key species in Caithness and how appropriate land management on farms can help them to survive.


Through farm habitat and wildlife surveys and working alongside farmers keen to enhance their wildlife and contribute to climate change targets a wide range of farms and crofts are already involved. Many farms now have agri-environment measures in place, but there are still large areas in Caithness where the important wildlife such as curlew, lapwing and great yellow bumblebee are still in decline and much more needs to be done.

CWWI partners have been involved in supporting farms and research into habitat and predator management for curlews and working through the Working for Waders national partnership on wader projects at Thrumster. Many farms now have bee and wildlife flower crops thanks to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the work of the agricultural advisers.

Other ongoing activities will include free provision of the CWWI rush topper and aerator, holding good practice events and engaging in advocacy initiatives. If you are a farmer in Caithness and would like borrow our equipment please phone Cat MacGregor of SRUC (SAC Consulting) on 01847 892602.





Coast on a stormy day

Norrie Russell

Conservation Adviser, RSPB
Tagged with: Country: Scotland Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Grassland Habitat: Wetland Species: Curlew Species: Lapwing Species: Oystercatcher Species: Redshank Species: Snipe Project status: Project types: Advocacy Project types: Site protection Project types: Species protection