WE are incredibly lucky in Craven and the Dales to hear and see curlews - across the UK, numbers of the Eurasian curlew have declined by more than 60 per cent since 1970, and in some parts of the country, they have disappeared altogether.

Today (Wednesday) is World Curlew Day - an attempt to raise awareness of the plight of one of Britain’s best loved and most recognisable birds, and to encourage people to do what they can to make sure it survives for future generations.

Although the birds, with their distinctive plaintive call and long, curved beak, can readily be seen across North Yorkshire and East Lancashire from early spring and throughout the breeding season, they are not seen in the numbers they once were.

The bird is not just a cultural symbol of the countryside; it is also a critical bio-indicator for our grassland and wetland ecosystems.

In the UK, which holds a quarter of the world’s Eurasian curlews, the birds are now considered one of the highest priority bird species for conservation, as several factors have made it harder for them to breed.

In particular, increasing numbers of predators like foxes and crows present a danger to curlew nests, and destruction of suitable breeding habitats, as a result of land-use changes and farming practices - with famers cutting grass for silage, has massively reduced breeding success rates.

Disturbance also poses huge problems for these birds, such as from a dog off the lead, causing them to leave the nest and, as a result, their eggs are left to chill or chicks can be left vulnerable to predators.

Some of the most important things people can do is to keep to footpaths, watch where you put your feet and keep dogs on leads when walking in upland, moorland and wetland areas.

Wildlife experts believe we are in fact running out of time to save these precious birds, with some scientists estimating that we could see regional or even country-level extinctions in the next 10 years.

Even the most generous estimates give the birds just only a few decades before they die out altogether.

But, Curlew Action is determined that this will not be the end of the bird, and is dedicated to comprehensive, coordinated and science-based action to reverse the decline in both Britain and Europe.

“We are working hard to fund the completion and distribution of a ‘Fieldworker’s Toolkit’ in time for this year’s breeding season” says Mary Colwell, author of Curlew Moon and founder of Curlew Action.

“This can make a tangible difference to our curlew populations by giving access to advice on best practice and the law around working with birds.”

She added: “Curlew Action can also help provide equipment where it is needed most, such as drones, nest cameras and temperature loggers to help field-workers locate and observe nests and understand any threats, whilst electric fences to place around nests will help prevent ground predators from getting to eggs and chicks.”

Mary says that the curlew, like many ground-nesting birds, has been pushed to the brink of extinction in the UK in recent years.

“We need to take action now in order to shape a future full of wildlife and nature. Curlew Action aims to do just that, starting with this year’s World Curlew Day.”

“The Curlew is an iconic bird of British landscapes. Its haunting, evocative call was once heard from the coast to the mountains, but it is rapidly disappearing”, said Mary. “World Curlew Day is a chance for us all to get behind the recovery of this beautiful bird, and bring magic and wonder back to our landscapes.”

Meanwhile, The Moorland Association is to ask the government to consider the success of curlew conservation measures on grouse moors as an example of how future agricultural policy could be framed, under the new Environmental Land Management Scheme.

It says a survey it has carried out reveals that the bird is found on 90 per cent of grouse moors in the north of England.

Amanda Anderson, a director of the Moorland Association said: “The government has outlined its land management goals in three areas - local nature recovery, landscape recovery and sustainable farming, which will underpin future support. Grouse moors have shown the way in which this could work, by providing the gold standard of conservation land management for the curlew.”

The Moorland Association says its members have restored over 27,000 hectares of peatland and have blocked 2,945 kilometres of agricultural drains to re-wet the peat, as part of their commitment to restoring peatlands to optimum condition and improving habitats for rare wildlife.

In response to the burning of heather on grouse moors, which ended on April 15, more than a month after people are instructed to keep their dogs on leads to protect ground nesting birds, a spokesperson for the Moorland Association said: “Burning is only carried out within the permitted season, which ends on April 15 in the uplands, before the peak nesting season for ground-nesting birds.

"The heather is only burnt in small patches and keepers will carefully check the ground for any early nesting birds before commencing a burn.”