The discovery of a locally rare bird, a stone curlew, earlier this summer during an ecological survey at a farm near Wellow highlights the value of farmland for wildlife.
It also shows the need for conservationists and farmers to work more closely than ever according to Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
The bird was discovered by ecologist Greg Gilmore whilst undertaking a survey on land managed by farmer Tom Channing.
The survey was commissioned after Tom applied to take part in the Trust’s Nature Recovery Network in Farmed Landscapes project, funded by Severn Trent Water.
Tom was keen to create a new feeding scrape for wading birds and the survey was carried out to assess the value of the site for birds.
The discovery of the stone-curlew, a crow-sized bird with the general shape and actions of an oversized plover, with large yellow eyes and black-tipped bill giving the stone-curlew a striking look, was quite a surprise to Greg.
The species is generally a rare summer visitor to southern England and East Anglia making it a very unusual find in Nottinghamshire.
The species is listed as protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and later that day, once it had been confirmed that the bird was not nesting, the farmer willingly agreed to delay the drilling of that field with seed until the bird moved on.
The stone-curlew’s natural habitat would usually be dry, open places with bare, stony ground or very short vegetation and the assumption is that this individual overshot its nesting ground in Norfolk and chose this arable field which was the most similar to its natural environment, to rest, feed and wait out stormy weather.
Stone-curlew used to breed in Nottinghamshire with the last reported breeding recorded near Rainworth in 1891 (sterland 1869; whitaker 1907).
The species has been subject to an overall contraction of range, although a recovery programme has been largely successful, boosting numbers of stone-curlew in its remained breeding sites in the south and east of the country.
The bird’s presence near Wellow, soon sparked significant interest in the birdwatching community and the farmer and landowners were initially wary at the prospect of being inundated with visitors and the possibility of damage due to trespass.
There were also concerns about visitor safety due the best vantage point being on a sharp bend in the road.
However, the farmer recognised that due to the bird’s rarity many people would wish to see it and for some it could a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the species on their local patch.
The farmer worked with the ecologists and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust team to put out advice as to how people could sensitively and safely view the bird – giving local wildlife enthusiasts a chance to appreciate it before it departed – most likely back to Norfolk.
Speaking about the incident, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Head of Nature Recovery (North) Janice Bradley said: “The unexpected arrival of the stone curlew is a lovely reminder that seemingly nondescript arable land can provide respite and safe haven for wildlife even if this was just a ‘pit stop’ for this individual.
The stone-curlew is not related to curlews but gets its name from its similar call. The species tends to be more active at night, but this particular bird was feeding and preening itself throughout the day – much to the delight of those able to see it.”
Janice added: “We are really grateful for the positive attitude of the farmer and hope that this event gives a glimpse of a future whereby ecologists, farmers and landowners, bird watchers and the general public respect each other’s needs and motivations as we work together to create a landscape full of thriving diverse wildlife alongside thriving farm businesses.”