North Pennines lapwing recovery project

The North Pennines is a stronghold for breeding lapwings which have declined in the last few decades. This project was set up to monitor lapwings and record any changes in population size and breeding success in response to trial land management.

Lapwing: adult feeding in wet meadow at Elmley Marsh RSPB reserve.


Trial land management was implemented through SITA Trust funding and Higher Level Stewardship (HLS). SITA Trust funding was used to modify field conditions by reducing the rush cover and enhancing wet features.
On sites which were entering HLS, similar management was included in the agreement. Additional measures such as the management of stocking levels and restrictions on the timings of mechanical works were also in place through both old and new agri-environment schemes.
Trial management was introduced to approximately half the sites, leaving a sufficient number of control sites receiving no management for comparison.
Five visits were made to each site throughout the breeding season starting in March. Surveyors monitored the number of lapwing adults and chicks as well as habitat features such as vegetation height, percentage rush cover and the availability of accessible wet features. 


  • To establish what constraints may prevent lapwing populations from recovering.
  • To determine which forms of management are most successful in reversing lapwing decline in the upland areas of the North Pennines.
  • To devise best practice for upland farming in the North Pennines.
  • To inform the future development of agri-environment schemes nationally.

Key Dates

  • From 2007-2010, breeding lapwings have been monitored 39 sites across the North Pennines encompassing more than 50 farms. The survey area encompassed 356 fields and an area in excess of 20 square kilometres. In 2010 alone, almost 470 hours were spent surveying.
  • Monitoring in 2007 and 2008 collected baseline data prior to the start of trial management.
  • In 2008, the project was awarded funding from the SITA Trust to carry out trial management.
  • From 2009 onwards, approximately half the monitored sites were managed either through SITA Trust funding or Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) to improve the habitat for breeding lapwings.

Planned Work

Now that the final year of monitoring has taken place, all the data is being analysed by the RSPB's Conservation Science department. The results were made available in 2012.


  • This project has been supported by Natural England and the SITA Trust. The SITA Trust makes awards through the Landfill Communities Fund. SITA Trust provides funding to improve biodiversity and the environment around landfill sites throughout England. SITA Trust receives its funding from the waste management company SITA UK.


Coast on a stormy day

Geraldine Straker

Conservation co-ordinator, RSPB

Further reading

Tagged with: Country: England Habitat: Farmland Habitat: Upland Species: Lapwing Project status: Ongoing Project types: Species protection