A CONSERVATION project has left a “lasting legacy” after strong numbers of lapwing chicks in the Avon Valley this spring.

The LIFE Waders for Real project saw Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) ecologists working with 40 local land managers to protect threatened species and restore habitats in the valley, which is a key breeding ground for lapwing and other conservation red-list wading birds.

The project, which ran from 2015 to 2019, succeeded in reversing the decline of lapwing in the valley as well as improving breeding success.

“The land managers have continued with many of the conservation measures we helped them put in place,” said Lizzie Grayshon, GWCT lead ecologist on the project.

“And, despite the unusually cold Spring, our monitoring suggests there will be at least 100 breeding pairs of lapwing this year, which is brilliant and consistent with the number at the end of the project. The long-term commitment of these ‘working conservationists’ is vital to ensuring the lapwings’ future in the Avon Valley.”

The valley’s farmers, gamekeepers and river keepers have maintained efforts to protect the endangered bird species from predators like foxes, using techniques previously carried out by GWCT ecologists, such as erecting temporary electric fences around nests.

“The farmers are still really engaged with their waders and provide us with regular updates,” said Lizzie. “The fact that lapwing numbers have remained stable since the end of the project shows how, given the right funding, advice and encouragement and by working together, farmers can boost biodiversity in the working countryside. Seventy two per cent of the land in Britain is farmed, so private land managers must be properly supported to carry out conservation on a landscape scale.”

Avon Valley farmer Will Mitchell, who grew up in the valley, added: "Each year we’re getting more and more involved with the birds and all the family enjoy seeing the progress they’re making.

"It’s great to see the lapwing coming back and this year we’ve had three types of egret, a redshank nest and for the first time a pair of oyster catchers.”

Visit: gwct.org.uk

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