A mission to save curlews in South Lakeland has been launched.
Experts say numbers of the wading birds are falling so fast in the valleys of South Lakeland that they may disappear altogether and their future as a breeding bird is on a knife edge.
Morecambe Bay Partnership volunteers and farmers have stepped in to protect their nests.
Curlews, with a distinctive long, curved bill, were once very common countryside birds but now they are an endangered species with 30 per cent of their population being lost in the last decade.
The partnership said: “Curlews nest on the ground so eggs and chicks can be easily eaten by predators or accidentally crushed so every nest is critical to their survival. Many curlew pairs have been failing to fledge chicks for several years in a row, which means that curlew numbers are plummeting.”
Working with farmers, volunteers from Morecambe Bay Partnership have identified a handful of nest sites to protect the precious eggs from destruction.
To help the curlews protect their brood from badgers and foxes, they have been installing electric fences around a broad area of the fields where they are nesting.
Amy Hopley, Morecambe Bay Partnership’s nature and wildlife officer, said: “The protected nests are now beginning to hatch, and the chicks must avoid both predators and farm machinery for the next five weeks until they can fly.
“Each chick fledged is a ray of hope for the future of curlews but they are not out of the woods yet”.
Susannah Bleakley, Morecambe Bay Partnership’s chief executive added: “The farmers have been amazing – they have been so accommodating to help the breeding curlews. And it has made a real difference.
“This year we know that six chicks have hatched and there are more nests that we are watching that are still incubating. The farmers are the heroes in this conservation story.”