THE second annual Curlew Festival held recently in Wensleydale underlined the importance of the link between curlew conservation and grouse moors.

While visitors to the festival at Bolton Castle enjoyed a range of summer activities, including art exhibitions, guided bird safaris and talks from renowned conservationists, the main message from the three-day event was that grouse moors are at the forefront of efforts to protect and enhance the curlew.

The curlew, Europe’s largest and most distinctive wading bird, has been added to the IUCN Red List of threatened UK birds with numbers falling 64 per cent from 1970 to 2014.

The UK is home to more than a quarter of the global breeding population of curlews, but habitat loss and predation means their chicks are not surviving.

Resilient populations of ground-nesting birds can be found on grouse moors across Yorkshire and the North of England, where gamekeepers implement predator control to keep foxes, carrion crows and other predators in check in the spring. This gives the curlew and other ground-nesting birds a much better chance of survival.

Bolton Castle’s Tom Orde-Powlett said: “I am proud of the breeding success of curlew and other red-listed birds on the Bolton Castle Estate and have enjoyed educating visitors about the value of habitat management and predator control that enables us to enjoy the wonderful selection of birds we saw.”

Amanda Anderson, director of Moorland Association, the organisation which represents English grouse moor owners, said: “Events such as the Curlew Festival are brilliant examples of showcasing all that grouse moor management has to offer. The public have been bowled over and thrilled by the birdlife breeding on the moors at this important time of year.”