Flanders Moss NNR
As you drive down the track to the Flanders Moss car park keep your eyes skinned for curlews. These wading birds with the longest of bills can be seen striding around the fields of either side of the track. Once at the moss you can listen out for the distinctive bubbling cry of the curlew and the yelping call as they also breed out on the bog. The Scottish name for these birds is whaup and is likely to come from a descriptive attempt to describe the birds sound, as is the name curlew.
Curlews in the UK are in trouble and as the UK holds about 25% of the worlds breeding population and hosts even more birds in the winter it means that curlews as a whole population are in trouble. They are declining at a rapid rate with the population of breeding pairs in Scotland dropping by 55% between 1995 and 2012.
And the reason for this decline? It seems that the birds are just not producing enough chicks. This is partially down to predation by foxes and crows mainly but also there is less suitable land for curlews to breed. Farming is changing with many farms no longer making hay but cutting grass earlier for silage. Silage cutting coincides with when curlew chicks hatch – just about now and so you can imagine the disaster of a field being cut with eggs or young chicks being present.
At Flanders there is an interesting contrast. The birds nesting next to the track tend to breed in the special Carse of Stirling timothy grass hay meadows. Though these meadows are getting fewer there are still enough across the Carse to support some pairs of curlews as the hay cut is in July when the chicks are old enough to move about. On the moss the curlews are using some of the wetter areas where we have restored the bog habitat.
With a rapidly declining population this makes Flanders and surrounding area important for these evocative birds. So Flanders is a good place to make sure you get your yearly quota of curlew calls.