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. Causes of wader declines are varied.

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


In 2008, the Scottish government introduced the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP), which provides funding through Rural Priorities (RP) to maintain or introduce wildlife-friendly farming practices. The Strathspey wetlands and waders initiative takes a strategic approach to providing high-quality wetland and wader habitat through targeted RP applications. 

Currently, the initiative is investigating the effects of predation and the effect of soil conditions on food provision but initially, the primary focus was on ensuring good wader habitat was maintained and, if possible, improved, in Strathspey.
One benefit of the scheme is how a range of options within RPs, 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 RP 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 Rural Priorities 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 RP 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.
  • To carry out or facilitate research into the causes of wader declines in Strathspey.


  • February 2009 - series of workshops to establish the approach and method of the initiative.
  • March 2009 - the initiative embarks on submitting RP applications.
  • September 2009 - first SWWI applications are successful.
  • Throughout 2010 and 2011 - series of policy and advocacy initiatives with government bodies to address issues affecting the Strathspey wader population.
  • September 2011 - rush cutting demonstration day on Strathspey farm
  • 2011 - 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.

Planned Work

  • From 2015 onwards, an ongoing programme of Rural Priority applications with specialist management plans will take priority. This will be backed by a training programme for case officers and agricultural agents.
  • In addition, the initiative will continue with its rush pasture improvement programme through demonstration days, provision of rush cutting equipment, and funded projects. The latter will also facilitate scrape creation and scrub removal.
  • The SWWI will also assist with research projects on the benefits of farm liming on soil conditions for breeding waders and the impact of predation on these birds.



To date (February 2012) over 50 RP applications, covering 24 square kilometres, have been successfully submitted under the banner of the Strathspey Waders and Wetlands Initiative. These include options with specialist plans for wetlands, mown and grazed grasslands, species-rich grasslands with breeding wader interests and cropped fields. These plans will bring in more than £1m to farmers for the management of breeding wader and wetland habitats in Strathspey in the next 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 Bridget England on 01463 715000.
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.
There is an ongoing programme of advocacy, PR work and sand training events backed up by materials, which include a suite of SWWI leaflets and an information poster.


No funding required for main aims of project 
Cairngorms National Park Authority and RSPB regional funding for small projects.


Coast on a stormy day

Bridget England

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