The Bolton Estate in Wensleydale has seen a record number of nesting curlews this year, with an estimated 250 pairs on the estate.

By contrast there are thought to be only 450 pairs of curlew in the whole of the south of England, from Birmingham to Land’s End.

The curlew is a vulnerable ground-nesting bird and a good indicator of the ecological health of grasslands, moorland and wetlands.

Once a common sight in the countryside, the UK’s curlew population has decreased by over 60 per cent since the 1980s due to loss of habitat and increasing predation pressure.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Satellite tags are attached to curlew to help monitor their migrations

The Bolton Estate, a member of the Moorland Association, has remained a stronghold for the species and much of it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation for its rare species and habitats.

Tom, Lord Bolton, and his gamekeepers have made conservation of this rare and much-loved bird a priority.

He said: “More than a quarter of the world’s curlews breed in the UK, meaning the conservation efforts undertaken here will have a significant impact on the future of the species globally.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our keepers, who work tirelessly to protect the nests and chicks. As well as their work to control predation and create the best possible habitats, they are increasingly working with our tenants and neighbouring farmers to identify nests and protect them from agricultural operations such as mowing, rolling or harrowing.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Working with local farmers helps protect curlew nests on land due to be cut for silage

Paul Noyes, wader project officer for the British Trust for Ornithology, said: "Many scientists recognise that the kind of management carried out on Bolton Estate can be hugely positive for breeding curlew populations, but spending the field season working closely with Bolton Estate keepers has given me a new appreciation for their passion and dedication.

“For head keeper Ian Sleightholm and his team, wader conservation is deeply personal to them. The long hours and hard graft they put into their work - these are testament to their love of the birds and the landscapes they manage, and their commitment to the way of life that has fostered and protected these remaining mainland strongholds for ground-nesting birds."

Bolton Estate is now taking part in a research project with the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Natural England and the British Trust for Ornithology to better understand the curlew’s behaviour and seasonal migration patterns.

Satellite tags have been fitted to 17 curlew to track their movements from their summer breeding grounds to preferred over-wintering locations.

The project has produced some surprising results, showing just how far the curlew will fly in the winter.

Some travelled as far as the west coast of Ireland, with one bird covering an astonishing 487 miles to Tralee. Others headed to Pembrokeshire in the southwest corner of Wales, Ellesmere Port and Morecambe Bay.

Some of the curlew remained in the local area for the winter season, while only one curlew headed east, spending the autumn and winter on the coast of Lincolnshire.