Species rich meadow

Floodplain meadows provide a rich habitat for a range of birds throughout the year. During the spring and summer, larger sites in particular can be important for breeding waders such as lapwing, curlew, redshank, snipe and black-tailed godwit, providing ground nesting habitat and soft feeding grounds. Skylark may also nest in floodplain meadows, and yellow wagtail is particularly attracted to sites where cattle are grazing. Depending on the local landscape, a number of small birds will use floodplain meadows, particularly where there are areas of scrub or hedgerows on the drier ground.

At other times of the year, especially during and after periodic flooding, floodplain meadows provide feeding grounds for a wide range of wildfowl and waders, including whooper swan, Bewick’s swan, wigeon, teal, shoveler, golden plover and snipe. Winter flooding, or even temporary inundation, provides feeding grounds for wildfowl and waders from countries further north, making these meadows important on an international scale. Key sites have been designated as Special Protection Areas and/or Ramsar sites under European and international directives and conventions for their bird populations. Most of these species have declined significantly in recent years and are now classified as ‘of conservation concern’ (Eaton et al. 2009). Many have become locally extinct as a breeding species, such as snipe along the Severn catchment in England (Balmer et al. 2013). Please follow the link to find out more about birds in hay meadows.

Curlews in crisis!

Recently there has been a decline in the population of curlews, especially in the South of Britain. The Breeding Bird Survey has recorded declines of up to 37% between 1995 and 2015. This had led to a discussion about cutting dates, as it may be beneficial to divide the meadow into 'strips' which are cut either early, mid or late season with the cutting time rotated each year. Read more about this in our newsletter, and also the case study on staggered cutting on Upham from the handbook.

And if you want to join the Curlew forum or find out more information please check out their website