I was offered an amazing opportunity for yesterday morning. To go out with a Stone curlew Officer, checking for new nests and counting birds accumulating at a regular roost-gathering location. I willingly took it, with both hands and a huge cheesy grin.
Jo took me to Cavenham Heath. A site in the Brecks that is protected for the rare ground nesting species of birds that nest there. The Stone curlew being one of them. I didn’t see any chicks but I did see lots of adults and/or juveniles. They gather together at roosting sites, from now until their departure at the end of the season. They then migrate south, to North Africa and southern Europe.
The Stone curlew, AKA thick-knees, is absurdly and strikingly beautiful. They have the most enormous and hypnotising eyes. Yellow, deep, and so un-avian. And they have long very very yellow legs. With thick knees.
I scanned the short grassy area ahead of me and saw two. I scanned again and counted six. Again and counted eight. And so on until I reached sixteen camouflaged Stone curlew sitting or standing around looking very statuesque.
The RSPB, Natural England and the Wildlife Trust have been working with this bird for decades. Like the Corncrake, the Stone curlew is very good at hiding on the ground, especially the chicks. They are therefore so very susceptible to being mown down by farming equipment. Each year staff and volunteers watch for signs of breeding behaviour when the birds return fromm migration, they search for nests, and when the time comes they actually hold the chicks up off the ground whilst the farmers do their business. This is full on intervention. RSPB is currently attempting to withdraw from such labour-intensive conservation work. The desire is that the Stone curlew will once again become self-sustainable. With enough sites protected for the purpose of ‘stonie’ breeding, and with enough farmers creating special Stonie patches in their breeding areas (the Brecks, and Wessex).
This bird belongs here. Fingers crossed.
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