Clyde Valley wader initiative

Our farmland waders – lapwing, curlew, snipe, redshank and oystercatcher – are in urgent need of our help.

 Snipe Gallinago gallinago perched on fencepost in breeding habitat, Tiree Hebridies Scotland


Sustained population declines have been recorded in recent decades across the UK and the rest of Europe. The British Isles are of global importance for these charismatic birds. We host one third of the world’s oystercatchers and a quarter of the world’s curlews, now a bird of global conservation concern.
The project area contains one of the most important populations of breeding waders in the UK. However, repeat surveys of certain valleys have shown steep declines since the 1980s, due to changing agricultural practices, new forestry plantations and increasing predation. 
Other valleys have been subject to less change, often due to agri-environment funding. In these valleys, the tumbling display flight of the lapwing and the bubbling song of the curlew remain common sights and sounds during springtime. 
It is critical we act together to conserve important populations where they exist. This relies on continuing the beneficial agricultural practices which provide the patchwork of improved pastures, wet grasslands and wetland that the birds need. As such, we are working with farmers, SAC Consulting and SGRPID to ensure these wildlife-friendly farming practices continue and are adequately supported by agri-environment schemes.


  • We want to work with the farming community to conserve the region's important wading bird populations, by managing the agricultural grasslands and wetlands on which they depend
  • We want to raise awareness the farmland of the upper reaches of the River Clyde and its tributaries are important for wildlife
  • Through greater recognition of the importance of the area for wildlife, we want to make it easier for farms in the region to join the project and access advice and funding to help undertake conservation management
  • We want to carry out farmland bird surveys to better understand whether the population is increasing or declining and use these results to help farmers tweak their conservation management
  • We want to undertake scientific research to further improve our understanding of the ecological needs of wading birds, to help inform future management
  • We want to showcase the project as a good example of farmers and conservationists working together


Planned Work

  • Further wader and habitat surveys will be carried out over the next few years. The data will then be analysed by RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science to assess the status of the wader population
  • We will be working with farmers and SAC Consulting as applications begin to be made to Scotland’s new SRDP in 2015
  • We will expand and look to identify further important valleys and farms for waders


  • Approximately 20 square kilometres of farmland have entered into agri-environment management options for waders, under the SRDP. These options include Open Grazed or Wet Grassland for Wildlife, Rush Management, Management of Wetland and Management of Species-Rich Grassland
  • 38 farms spread over 32 farm businesses have entered into SRDP
  • More than £1 million of conservation payments have been brought into the local farming community to assist with the costs of undertaking the conservation work
  • We have secured additional funding for the project, from Community Windpower, to carry out additional conservation work
  • This includes the hiring of a piece of machinery (the Softrak) to cut dense areas of rush pasture on land too wet for conventional cutting equipment
  • Two demonstration events were carried out to showcase the Softrak and 4 contracts have been set up between RSPB and farmers to cut around 0.2 square kilometres of rank rush pasture
  • Breeding wader surveys have been carried out on over 31 farmland sites. Each site is around 80 ha in size, so in total we have surveyed around 25 square kilometres. The surveys are being carried out by local RSPB volunteers
  • Habitats have also been surveyed at each site
  • A PhD student is undertaking field trials in which fields are split into two, with one half receiving an application of lime. The response of soil invertebrates and feeding waders between the treated and non-treatment plot is being monitored
  • Wild bird cover has also been planted to provide feeding habitat for other priority species in the region




The majority of the conservation work is being funded through the SRDP. Additional habitat work is being kindly funded by Community Windpower.


Coast on a stormy day

Daniel Brown

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