Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows


BTO published a new statement on COVID-19 on 12 February 2021.

We will update this statement ahead of spring 2021 when fieldwork for Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows is now planned.

Curlew. Tom Streeter

Help us monitor the long-term population changes of our lowland breeding waders in England and Wales.

This survey is now planned to go ahead in spring 2021 (Covid-19 restrictions permitting), after being postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19.   We will be contacting all volunteers who offered to cover sites in 2020 and ask them to confirm whether they would still be able to help survey those sites in 2021.   After 22nd February all remaining sites will be made available, so please see if there is a site near you.

Why lowland waders of wet meadows?

The purpose of this survey is to assess the importance of both existing and new wet grassland and also other breeding wader habitats in England (as provided by agri-environment schemes) for declining breeding birds such as Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe. The survey will re-visit sites from the 1982 and 2002 surveys, including sites from the 2009-10 RSPB targeted areas, as well as other new sites since 2002. Surveys conducted in Wales will focus on sites covered from the 2002 survey (although more sites may be identified in due course).

What’s required?

The survey will involve up to four visits between mid-April and end of June to count and map all waders within allocated sites featuring wet grassland and/or farmland sites containing specific agri-environment scheme (AES) options, including arable Lapwing Plots. Simple habitat and land management measures will also be recorded during the field work. All regions of lowland England will be covered, as well as Welsh sites that were covered in 2002. Surveyors will need to be able to identify several common wader species by sight and sound, and also to be familiar with display and territorial behaviour.

The survey will require three daytime visits, with at least one week separating each, and a single dusk visit for Snipe during May - only if present at the site. It is important to make the first visit in April if possible, as this is an optimal time to survey Lapwing. Daytime visits should be carried out preferably between dawn and midday – avoiding cold, wet or windy weather.

A map will be provided showing you the boundary of your site. Cover all of the area indicated to ensure results are comparable to the 2002 surveys. Sites will need to be surveyed systematically, field by field, walking 100m of each part of the site. Record all waders on maps provided using standard BTO species codes.

Ducks should also be recorded and we are also keen to use the opportunity to record Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipit. Only wader species need to be mapped.

Time / skill required

  • Between 20 minutes and a few hours per visit, depending on the size of the site. Three visits required between mid-April and late June. An additional evening visit to sites which contain Snipe.
  • Can identify common wader species (Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Snipe and Redshank) by sight/sound and recognise display/territorial behaviour. Be able to identify simple habitat management features and record basic ground conditions within your site.
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Project timeline, contributions & findings

Project timeline

  • 14th to 30th April – 1 st Visit
  • 1st to 21st May – 2 nd visit
  • 22nd May to 24th June – 3 rd visit
  • 1st to 31st May – Optional 4thevening Snipe visit (only sites with likely Snipe occupation)

This survey is organised in partnership with RSPB and commissioned by Natural England. For more information, contact survey organisers: David Norfolk and Greg Conway. Email: breedingwaderswm2 [at]

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