SETTLE and Kirkby Malham schoolchildren have been finding out about how the Yorkshire Dales is an important breeding ground for the Eurasian Curlew.

Year-6 primary school children have been working with the Wild Ingleborough project to raise awareness about curlews and other ground-nesting birds, so that everyone who enjoys visiting and walking in the area can do their bit to help protect them.

The beautiful wading birds, with their long beaks and mournful song, return from the coast to the uplands every year to make their nests on the ground, on farmland and moorland. Some can live for as long as 20 to 30 years, but sadly their numbers are declining, due to changes in land use and loss of habitat.

Visitors and walkers can help to protect curlews and other ground-nesting birds, such as lapwings, by sticking to paths between March and August, and making sure their dogs are on leads - both helping to minimise disturbance and giving the birds a better chance of raising their chicks successfully.

Ellie Parker, community engagement officer for Wild Ingleborough, said: “Spring is a time when many people come from near and far to enjoy the countryside around Ingleborough, and it’s also when several species of ground-nesting birds, including the iconic curlews, are at their most vulnerable as they return to the uplands to attempt to raise chicks.

“There are many reasons why curlews’ populations are declining so dramatically, as the children discovered during their research, but we can all help give them the best chance of breeding successfully, by making sure we don’t disturb their nests.

“Thanks to the hard work of Year 6 at Settle and Kirkby Malham Primary Schools, we now have some wonderful resources which we can use to help spread the word.”

After learning more about ground-nesting birds, and visiting the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve at Ribblehead, the children designed posters and leaflets, wrote poetry, and even made a short animated film, thanks to additional funding from the Wild Escape.

The children will receive the John Muir Trust’s Discovery Award, acknowledging the contribution they have made to protecting wildlife. Two pupils from Kirkby Malham, Edward Stapleton and Edward Farrow, won prizes in a national poetry competition for their poems about curlews, and the children’s work was displayed in the Folly Museum of North Craven Life, Settle.

John Bell, Kirkby in Malham teacher, said: “The project has been an excellent experience for the children and a perfect way for them to learn about a local issue with global significance. The children have developed a strong sense of responsibility for ground-nesting birds, and most importantly, it has taught them practical ways that they can make a difference.”

The children’s animation can be viewed on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Youtube channel: