WADING birds are being given a helping hand by gamekeepers who turned into ‘citizen scientists’ to help monitor their populations.

A pilot project by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) saw gamekeepers and famers across Wensleydale monitor breeding waders and the hatching success of their nests.

The subsequent report revealed high densities of breeding curlew, golden plover, lapwing, redshank and snipe in the project area.

Thirty-four nests were monitored with cameras and temperature recorders to pinpoint egg hatching or failure.

Overall, six out of every ten nests hatched chicks.

Of the 13 nests that failed, ten were damaged, mainly by sheep, hedgehogs and badgers, or trampled by livestock.

There was no fox or small mammal predation recorded and only one nest fell victim to crows.

The Moorland Association welcomed the findings as they highlight the key role that grouse moor gamekeepers can play in the monitoring and conservation of thriving upland wader populations.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said the report was “very encouraging”.

She added: “Other research has found that in moorland areas where there are gamekeepers controlling generalist predators like foxes, crows and stoats there are up to five times as many waders which have a three times better chance of fledging their chicks.”

Wildlife Officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Ian Court, said: “The enthusiastic way in which the gamekeepers took to monitoring is really encouraging.”

He said he hoped stakeholders will build on the research success to establish more coordinated survey work across the national park.