The Dartmoor Moorland Birds Project

Fiona explained the nature, scope and complexity of the Project. It became clear that managing this wide ranging project to benefit the declining population of Dartmoor moorland birds, with its many stakeholders, is a demanding and critical role.

The project relies on a large number of partners who Fiona has to keep informed and to negotiate a balanced approach to bird positive land management to maximise the potential of habitat for moorland species. This involves study and appreciation of habitat ecology and how soil, atmospheric conditions, land usage by livestock and geology all feed into this multi-faceted challenge. It is a complex problem with a nuanced, thoughtful  and smart solution needed to move forward.

Fiona explained how her role has a strong outreach element and the information is disseminated through presentations, website and leaflets. There are also many volunteers involved in surveys and observations adding to the plethora of data that the project is gathering. Anyone wishing to volunteer can contact Fiona.

The conservation of Ring Ouzel typifies the work of the project. A study of the bird behaviour, its preferred habitat ecology and the land usage through paid researchers, volunteers and stakeholder negotiation has shaped the approach to conservation techniques. Several sites have been identified and some habitat adaption has been made with some ringed birds showing fidelity to the site and limited success in breeding being witnessed.

The plight of breeding Curlew was also discussed and though there is evidence of one pair returning annually to a particular site their breeding success is very poor. It is thought that many factors have impinged on their breeding including the increasing disturbance from free roaming dogs. This situation is again typical of the problems facing moorland birds with increasing leisure usage of Dartmoor; another factor acting on what needs to be a pragmatic and realistic action plan for the preservation of iconic species of Dartmoor moorland birds.

John Lloyd     Devon Birds Plymouth Branch