A weekend in the spring sunshine and a cold east wind helping my old friend Tony Cross colour-ring curlew and dippers in Wales and Welsh Marches. Male curlews are highly territorial so they respond to a playback of their effervescent bubbling call alongside a stuffed curlew (inappropriately called ‘stuffy’) placed by a net and we catch two males after some near misses and many disinterested birds. The larger females rarely respond but some males fly in and march up, picking at the ground, walking off and coming back around again and finally coming in for a good pecking; this usually seals their fate.
The male shares the incubation and then is the sole carer for the young birds after about half way through the long 35 day fledging period, at which time the female moves off to the coast. The work enables individuals to be followed and is a fundamental part of the conservation science for what is a rapidly declining breeding species. These birds live long. often more than 30 years, but the evidence is that they consistently fail to rear any young probably because of the number of mammal and bird predators. Perhaps the successful conservation of red kites has contributed to a decline in breeding waders?
Dippers under bridges are much easier to check, as Tony has installed nest boxes for many of them. A nest site by a waterfall within a vertical bank of moss is the natural exception. Grey wagtails often share a bridge; one builds a nest on top of a dipper box and this is unceremoniously pulled off and into the stream below.