Stone Curlew

Staff Day Trip: A Morning with Stone Curlews in Hampshire

Tom Mabbett
By Tom Mabbett
Operations Manager
17th June 2021
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One of our most popular Day Trips this spring has been our ‘Morning with Stone Curlews in Hampshire’, led by local Stone Curlew saviour Keith Betton, who you may have seen featured on the recent Springwatch series. On 25th May it was our turn to join a staff day at the beautiful Tidgrove Estate in north Hampshire, not only to see and learn all about this fascinating species but also the chance to actually reconnect with our colleagues after over a year apart!

The day started with Keith delivering a super talk about the status of the Stone Curlew and an insight into their conservation, as well as sharing some fascinating facts and explaining how specifically they can now predict when eggs will hatch by weighing them. This is an extremely important element to conservation efforts, as it allows farmers to avoid critical time periods during tractor work, meaning far fewer birds are inadvertently killed. The future looks bright for Stone Curlews here, and it was so refreshing to hear such positivity and a genuine good news story!

Itching to get out and see the birds for real, we were soon strolling across the estate, with Keith giving us an insight into the very impressive ongoing re-wilding efforts being undertaken here. Willow Warblers sang all around us (their population booming) as Red Kites drifted overhead, making their iconic loud calls. As we scanned the fields for Stone Curlews, Keith explained where a current nest was located, and that today he was due to check on the eggs – lucky us! We carefully followed Keith to the nest site and quickly checked the eggs before making a hasty retreat to avoid any unnecessary disturbance. The eggs were larger than we had expected, mottled brown and incredibly well camouflaged. As we watched from a safe distance, we were rewarded with wonderful views as the female crept back and sat down on her two very special eggs.

We then enjoyed a lovely walk around the estate and were lucky enough to see three more Stone Curlews, alongside Lapwings – which are also thriving here – as a Lesser Whitethroat sang from a Hawthorn hedge and Mistle Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Linnets, Bullfinch, Skylarks, Yellowhammers, Buzzards and two Roe Deer were also enjoyed. As we neared the end of the walk, we took up the challenge of spotting two Red Kite nests – more difficult than we had imagined! – before having lunch and reflecting on a very special morning.

A big thank you to Naturetrek Tour Leader Keith Betton and the landowner for making these mornings possible, and to everyone else who has joined a tour – every participant is directly contributing to the conservation of these fantastic birds (a proportion of each day trip fee goes to conservation efforts on the estate). Let’s hope that this success story continues for many more years to come!

The 2021 season is now over but we do plan to run this day trip again in May and June 2022. Do join us!

Stone Curlew
Stone Curlew eggs