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.

Twite Carduelis flavirostris, adult perched side-on upon barb wire fence. RSPB reserve, North Uist


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, management, scrape creation for waders.
  • To raise awareness of the importance of the key species in Caithness and how appropriate land management on farms can help them to survive.

Planned Work

Through extensive farm habitat surveys, a range of farms were identified as being suitable for targeted management work, primarily rush management and scrape creation. This has been done on four farms to date but will be offered to further farms in the near future.
Over the next couple of years, the CWWI will help to facilitate two research projects, one on the benefits of liming, the other on the impact of predation on breeding waders.
Other ongoing activities will be continued, eg promotion 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 Iona Cameron of SRUC (SAC Consulting) on 01847 892602. Please note, although the loan is free, there is a small charge for to cover SAC administrative costs.


  • Collaboration and submission of 10 Rural Priority farm plans under the banner of the Caithness Wetlands and Wildlife Initiative across approximately 6 square kilometres of farmland. These plans also contain measures for seed eating passerines, particularly twite.
  • Holding of three land management workshops to demonstrate and discuss rush management, scrape creation for breeding waders and grassland/soil management.
  • Awareness raising on key issues affecting Caithness wildlife through advocacy and policy initiatives, eg with local politicians and government bodies.
  • Implementation of a survey project to map and assess current habitats and work with farmers on land management measures outwith agri-environment funding.
  • Delivery of land management activities outwith SRDP funding, including rush management and scrape creation.
  • Creation of promotional materials, including a CWWI logo, 6 land management advisory leaflets and an informational poster.
  • Creation of case studies and press releases to promote good practice.
  • Delivery of on-farm bird surveys by volunteer surveyors.



Coast on a stormy day

Kate Clarke

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