Collaborative project aims to shed new light on breeding waders in the east Cairngorms

21 Jan 2019 | No. 2019-04

Gathering data on breeding waders in upland areas of Scotland presents significant challenges. In the east Cairngorms, a new project has been enlisting the help of estate staff to improve our understanding of upland breeding wader populations.

A recently published report by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) describes the first year of a collaborative wader research and monitoring project between the BTO and the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership (ECMP). The objective of the project is to build a better understanding of factors affecting wader breeding productivity, which will help to inform how wader conservation objectives and woodland expansion can be balanced in upland landscapes such as the east Cairngorms.

Breeding wader populations have declined significantly across Scotland, with the most recent BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey reporting declines of 61% for Curlew and 57% for Lapwing for the period 1995-2016. In upland areas these declines are thought to be driven by a range of factors including afforestation and impacts of generalist predators. The ECMP provides an ideal location for this study because the participating estates have a range of objectives, including grouse moor management with associated predator control, landscape enhancement and woodland expansion.

Training and guidance in nest monitoring and wader surveys was provided to staff on the estates including gamekeepers, rangers, estate ecologists, and also a local volunteer group. Participation in the project was excellent, with wader surveys carried out at a range of sites and over a hundred wader nests monitored with temperature data loggers and nest cameras.

Take a look at some clips from the nest cameras here.

Initial analysis of the first year’s nest monitoring data suggests potentially interesting associations between nest success and woodland cover, nest habitat, livestock density and predator abundance. More data are needed in future years to further investigate patterns in wader nest success in relation to woodland, the effect of individual predator species, and potential effects of livestock. Involving estate staff in research and monitoring projects is proving a practical way of gathering the data we need to better understand the challenges facing upland breeding waders.

David Jarrett, lead author on the report from BTO Scotland said: “The east Cairngorms is one of the best areas of mainland Scotland for breeding waders, particularly Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Oystercatcher. It’s vital we get good data on how waders are faring in these upland areas in light of national declines, and partnership projects such as this have the potential to significantly improve our understanding.”

Glyn Jones, Head Ranger at Balmoral Estate said: “A visit to Glen Muick in the spring wouldn’t be the same without our iconic Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Snipe providing a rich tapestry of sights and sounds. At Balmoral we’ve been monitoring these birds for many years and this project allowed us to use data loggers and camera traps. This will help us understand wader trends on Balmoral and across the eastern Cairngorms, and hopefully we can buck the national trend and see waders not only maintaining their numbers but also increasing.

Dr Pete Mayhew, Director of Conservation and Visitor Experience at the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) said. “The Cairngorms National Park includes some of the most important inland wader breeding areas in the UK. This research will better inform us on what affects their breeding success and ensure that the wader populations in the National Park are taken into account as we take forward projects on forestry and moorland.”

Contact Details

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:30pm Mon-Thurs), (9am to 5pm Friday)
Mobile: 07585 440910
Email: press [at] ()

David Jarrett
(Research Ecologist BTO Scotland)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:30pm Mon -Thurs), (9am to 5pm Friday)
Email: david.jarrett [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release, January 2019-04, by emailing press [at]

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. 
Please contact us to book an interview. Office:01842 750050

Notes to editors

1. For access to the full report - 
Investigating Wader Breeding Productivity in the East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership Area using Collaborative Methods

2. The East Cairngorms Moorland Partnership includes Balmoral Estate, Invercauld Estate, Mar Estate, Mar Lodge Estate, Glenavon Estate and Glenlivet Estate. The Cairngorms National Park Authority is also a partner, and provided funding for the project.

3. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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