Strathspey wetlands and waders initiative

Surveys in Strathspey between 2000 and 2010 showed a 42 per cent decline in one of the most important breeding wader populations in mainland Britain. We are working with local land managers on a broad range of issues facing waders.

 Young Lapwing on Alistair Robb's farm. Stirlingshire. Scotland.


The Strathspey wetlands and waders initiative (SWWI) was set up in 2009 to safeguard farm wader and wetland habitats and the future of the nationally important wader population in Badenoch and Strathspey, which is the largest of its kind in mainland Britain.
The five wader species the initiative supports are: curlew, lapwing, redshank, oystercatcher and snipe.
The initiative is investigating the effects of predation and the effect of soil conditions on food provision but also aims to ensure good wader habitat is maintained and, if possible, improved, in Strathspey.
The SWWI takes a strategic approach to providing high-quality wetland and wader habitat through targeted Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) applications. A range of options, such as those for the management of wetland, grassland or habitat mosaics, allow for the drawing up of specialist plans for sites. 
The collaboration between agricultural advisors, conservation bodies and farmers enables the initiative to use AECS contracts to tailor land management to fit with the needs of both farms and the breeding waders they support.


  • To provide a strategic approach to the provision of high-quality breeding wader habitat at landscape scale through targeting AECS funding applications.
  • To foster collaboration between conservationists, agriculturalists and land managers which pools skills to maximise delivery for key habitats and species in Strathspey.
  • To identify land management projects (additional to AECS options) of benefit to farms and breeding waders and access funding to support them in Strathspey.
  • To raise awareness of the importance of the Strathspey wader population and how appropriate land management on farms can help it to survive and thrive.
  • To carry out or facilitate research into the causes of wader declines in Strathspey.


  • 2009 - series of workshops to establish the approach and method of the initiative, first Rural Payment (predecessor to AECS) applications submitted and successful.
  • 2010 and 2011 - series of policy and advocacy initiatives with government bodies to address issues affecting the Strathspey wader population.
  • 2011 - first rush cutting demonstration day on Strathspey farm and purchase of rush cutting kit for loan to Strathspey farmers (funded by the Cairngorms National Park Authority).
  • 2011 - creation of a suite of SWWI advisory leaflets.
  • 2012 to 2014 - roll out of farm habitat survey project with delivery of work on the ground including rush management and scrape creation.
  • 2015 - repeat surveys showed the wader declines had halted, likely in part due to the efforts of local farmers and other land managers.
  • 2016 to 2020 - worked with agricultural agents and land managers to implement a range of AECs applications and deliver funded projects.
  • 2020 - Five-year repeat survey delayed due to Covid-19 but engagement with land managers maintained.

Planned Work

  • The next survey was due to take place in 2020 but was delayed due to Covid-19. It will take place this spring.
  • An ongoing programme of AECS applications with specialist management plans will continue. 
  • In addition, the initiative will continue with its rush pasture improvement programme through demonstration days and provision of rush cutting equipment. As well as funded projects to make further habitat improvements for example scrape creation and scrub removal.
  • The SWWI will also continue to assist with research projects on the benefits of farm liming on soil conditions for breeding waders and the impact of predation on these birds.



Between 2009 and 2012, over 50 RP applications, covering 24 square kilometres, have been successfully submitted under the banner of the Strathspey waders and wetlands initiative. These included options with specialist plans for wetlands, mown and grazed grasslands, species-rich grasslands with breeding wader interests and cropped fields. These plans brought more than £1m to farmers for the management of breeding wader and wetland habitats in Strathspey over five years.
In 2011, the Cairngorm National Park Authority provided funding to buy rush topping equipment for loan to Strathspey farmers, which is out on farms in the Strath between August and March each year. If you are a farmer in Strathspey and would like to borrow this equipment, please contact Kate Clarke on 07796 686462.
Between 2012 and 2014, extensive habitat surveys were carried out on nine farms, and land management carried out on eight of these, primarily rush management and scrape creation. A training session on scrape creation was carried out on one of the farms.
In 2015, a repeat survey to count waders in Badenoch and Strathspey was undertaken. Results showed the previous wader declines had halted, likely in part due to the efforts of local farmers and other land managers.
From 2016, there has been an ongoing programme of advocacy, engagement and  training events backed up by materials including leaflets and an information poster.


Agri-Environment Climate Scheme funding supports work on individual sites.
Cairngorms National Park Authority, the RSPB and Working for Waders have funded projects.


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: Ongoing Project types: Advocacy Project types: Site protection Project types: Species protection