There are sounds in nature that speak of location. Noises that automatically transport you to a shore, or a wood, or a moor. The call of the Curlew is surely one of those sounds?Though they will be seen on estuaries, especially in winter it’s the moors I think of when I hear a Curlew. You hear it in the background of a TV programme and you are immediately transported. A haunting, declining repetition of a note played by some mystical flute, carrying over the landscape and evoking a wilder time. It has been commemorated by poets and musicians, and rightly so.
Sadly ‘declining’ is an apt word here as the Curlew is in serious trouble; down 50% across the UK and as much as 90% in Ireland within the last two decades. A combination of loss of suitable, wet moorland habitat and predation by foxes of nest sites has put them at serious risk of localised extinction. In fact worldwide the curlews as a group are considered by some conservationists to be the most endangered of all.
It would be a tragedy to lose our largest wader from our land, from our shores, and from our natural history. It is something we must be mindful of. The landscape they need benefits us too, as wet uplands lock in waters that otherwise come flooding into towns and cities, an increasing risk with a warming climate. Saving the curlew may well be a step to saving ourselves.