26 June 2000
Signs of success for lapwing rescue

A PROJECT which has paired ornithologists and farmers is showing signs that it could arrest the decline of lapwings.

Across the country, lapwing number have halved since 1970, while in the south-west their population has dropped by two-thirds.

To tackle this decline, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) brought together producers and its own experts to devise strategies.

The decline of mixed farms and the intensification of agriculture have contributed to the demise of the lapwing.

The birds need bare ground for the their nests and grassland to gather food for their young.

Practical measures to encourage the birds include access to ploughed fields in the spring, and marking nest sites to ensure they are not disturbed during work.

The RSPB has now identified 140 pairs of lapwings in Dorset and hopes to work from there to restore the population.

Meanwhile, a new RSPB report reveals that songthrush numbers have fallen by a half to less than a million pairs in the past 30 years.

The Independent reports that rural thrushes have struggled to find enough food in areas of intensive agriculture.

Farming practices are said to have reduced snail and slug numbers, through the loss of wet ditches, woodland and damp grazed grasslands.

The decline hedgerows has limited supplies of berries – an important winter food – and added to pressures.

The RSPB says the situation is now so bad that rural gardens support 20 times more thrushes than arable farmland.