Photo by @hedgehogHugh - Mary Colwell discussing music, nature and curlews with our patron, David Gray, at the 2021 New Networks for Nature Conference
Our Vision: A secure place for curlews and the wildlife that lives alongside them in a natural world, rich in biodiversity, where people are informed about, and engaged with, nature.
Our Mission: Giving Curlews a secure future through advocacy, supporting conservation efforts, engaging with science and policy, highlighting the cultural importance of curlews, and by promoting natural history education, and a wider engagement with the natural world.
Curlew Action has various ongoing projects to support curlew conservation. Click on a project's title or picture to learn more about it.
An essential element of our work is engaging the public with the issues surrounding conservation and curlews. Our Junior Curlew Network connects school children across the UK with curlew conservation, helping to get young people excited about the wildlife we need to protect.
Curlew Action celebrates and raises awareness around curlews worldwide. We give regular talks and hold events to promote curlew conservation, such as our 2022 lecture series 'Conservation: lessons from the curlew'. If you are interested in having a member of Curlew Action speak at an event please get in touch. We also make educational films and podcasts, which offer different perspectives on curlew issues from leading conservationists, artist, writers and scientists.
Curlew Action empowers people working in the field by providing resources and connecting them with expertise. For instance, we are helping Curlew Country to resource their groundbreaking fieldwork and headstarting project, and we are working with the Curlew Recovery Partnership to supply high-quality training courses and videos. We devised the Curlew Fieldworkers’ Toolkit, and in partnership with WWT made it an accessible online resource for anyone requiring information or advice on fieldwork. It is now available through the CRP.
Mary Colwell, our founder, has spearheaded the campaign for a GCSE in Natural History since 2011, which has now been confirmed by the department of education! The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Tim Oates from the exam board OCR have been wonderful collaborators in pushing this through the right channels and getting us to this point. Everyone at Curlew Action would like to thank them for their support. Creating a nature-literate society that loves, understands and supports the wildlife of the UK is at the heart of what Curlew Action is about. Next campaign: Natural History A-Level!
Mary Colwell established World Curlew Day in 2017. It is a day to celebrate and raise awareness about curlews across the globe and a fantastic opportunity to tell their stories. Curlews everywhere are in serious trouble but there are many creative ways to help them. See some of our previous activities and our plans for next World Curlew Day.
There are big questions still to be answered in conservation, issues that directly affect curlews. Curlew Action is fundraising to support two PhDs that will help us understand more about habitat, predation and food sources. We need science and long-term study to inform government policies and land management to secure the future of curlews.
The story of curlew action
Mary Colwell walks from the west coast of Ireland to the east coast of England, crossing the entire breadth of the British Isles, to highlight the issues facing our curlew populations.
Everywhere the story is the same: curlews are disappearing, especially on their breeding grounds. They face innumerable and often very different dangers depending on the area, including changing agricultural practices, wetland draining, increased predation, afforestation, climate change, and so much more.
21st April 2017
Mary instigates the first ever World Curlew Day, celebrating curlews across the world and bringing the stories of their plight to the public.
Mary tells the story of curlews in her book Curlew Moon, which combines her walk with conservation and the poetry, music and art inspired by them.
Mary also instigates several major curlew conferences and strategic meetings, helping to develop the diverse network of curlew work now established across the UK.
After securing initial funding from Restore our Planet, Mary forms Curlew Action with a group of like-minded people from various conservation backgrounds. We raise funds to support anyone interested in curlews from across the conservation spectrum, from the general public to farmers and landowners. By protecting nesting sites, promoting careful monitoring and research, and raising awareness about the plight of the curlews, we are at the heart and centre of curlew conservation.
March: Supported by Defra, Curlew Action and eight other prominent conservation organisations form the Curlew Recovery Partnership (CRP). Together with a wide network, they coordinate the fight to save the curlew by influencing policy and connecting conservation work with best practice and funding.
March: Supported by Defra, Curlew Action and eight other prominent conservation organisations form the Curlew Recovery Partnership (CRP), seeking to lead the fight to save the curlew by influencing policy and coordinating conservation work.
Singer-songwriter David Gray becomes Curlew Action’s first patron, and the charity takes on a large number of ambassadors from all over the UK.
meet the team
Mary is a writer, TV and radio producer and conservationist, whose massive walk across the breadth of the UK in 2016 helped raise the profile of the curlew, and led her to write the greatly influential Curlew Moon (a must-read for any curlew fan!). Mary founded Curlew Action in late-2019 after a series of talks, meetings and forums among experts discussing what was most needed to rescue the rapidly declining UK curlew population. Mary loves long distance walking, camping, reading and cycling, as well as wildlife and storytelling, and it is her passion for telling the story of the curlew that has helped launch it into the public consciousness in the past few years.
Favourite bird (other than a curlew): Eider duck
Fundraising and Communications
Alex studied philosophy and politics at Exeter, and now lives in London where he really misses the countryside! It is a passion for nature and sustainability which drives his desire to protect wildlife like the curlew, along with its precious habitats and ecosystems. As well as making sure we raise enough money to do our important work, he uses his writing skills to keep our copy feeling fresh and informative. Alex is a qualified ski instructor who also loves rock climbing, meditating, tennis and cooking (especially big veggie pastas and anything involving squash).
Favourite bird other than a curlew: Tawny Owl
Communications and Outreach
Having recently graduated from Bristol with a masters in Biology, Ellen knows more than most about wildlife and conserving the natural world. She volunteers on the organising team of UK Youth for Nature, and sells wildlife art commissions, and she brings this flair for organisation and creativity to everything she does at the charity, making it her goal to get people excited about nature. When she’s not doing graphic design and communications (and many other things) for Curlew Action, Ellen can be found drawing, cold water swimming, fencing or hiking.
Favourite bird (other than a curlew): “I can’t decide on a bird, but I have a favourite moth - the Buff Tip!”
Curlew Action Patron
Introducing Curlew Action patron, Singer / songwriter David Gray.
"I am delighted to become a Patron of Curlew Action. These are desperate times for wildlife, but the idea of losing magical birds like the curlew from our landscape is just more than my heart can bear. Curlew Action are all about funding protective and educational efforts but on a localised level, and it‘s inspiring to see the difference that that can make. I’m extremely honoured to be involved and will be rolling up my sleeves with the rest of the team in order to try to preserve a prosperous future for these magnificent creatures.”
Chair of trustees
Roger Morgan-Grenville is our Chair of Trustees. He was a soldier in the Royal Green Jackets for nine years, during which time he served on five continents, and led the first expedition to successfully retrace Shackleton’s extraordinary journey across the island of South Georgia. As well as managing a housewares company, Roger helped to found the charity Help for Heroes, and was its first head fundraiser, meaning he brings both business and charitable leadership expertise to the board. Roger is an author, writing on both natural history and sport, as well as an enthusiastic amateur beekeeper and lifelong lover of birds.
Favourite bird (other than a curlew): Manx Shearwater (or Wandering Albatross, if Tim has taken shearwater!)
Our in house Curlew expert, Mike Smart has been watching birds in Gloucestershire since boyhood. After birding for ten years in Tunisia and two in Iran, he returned to Gloucestershire in 1974 to work for the International Waterfowl Research Bureau (now Wetlands International) at Slimbridge, then spent seven years in Switzerland at IUCN headquarters with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Mike is now involved with local conservation activities with the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, and continues to watch waders in the Severn Estuary and Vale. Mike’s considerable background in wader conservation is at the heart of the work we do at Curlew Action.
Favourite bird (other than a curlew): All of them!
Alison started her career working as an actor, then quickly moved sideways into producing - first in the theatre, and later in film and television. Her prestigious career highlights include many critically acclaimed and award-winning short films, as well as two BAFTA nominations. She now brings her considerable organisational skills to the board of Curlew Action, and acts as a useful sounding board for any media and presentational opportunities. She loves film and TV, birds and walks.
Favourite bird other than a curlew: Penguin
Tim Guilford is a Professor of Animal Behaviour and a Tutorial Fellow in Zoology at Merton College, Oxford. Much of his current research explores how long distance wandering seabirds migrate, map and navigate across the open oceans. He serves on the board as both a scientific advisor and educational expert. When not studying evolutionary adaptations, he attempts to defy them via paragliders, sea kayaks, and an enthusiasm for caves.
Favourite bird (other than a Curlew): Balearic shearwater (as Roger has probably taken Manx Shearwater)
Rory has been with Curlew Action since it was established, and joined the board in Autumn 2021. Having read International Relations and Politics at the Universities of Sheffield and Hong Kong, he served as a policy advisor in Whitehall, then worked in both applied conservation and conservation advocacy in France, the UK and South Africa. He holds a masters in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, is an associate fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and a qualified member of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa. After working both for Curlew Action and as a full-time forestry operative, Rory is currently studying for an MPhil in Conservation Leadership at the University of Cambridge, and oversees project management and organisational planning at the charity.
Favourite bird (other than a curlew): African Giant Kingfisher
As well as our wonderful core team, Curlew Action has a group of dedicated ambassadors who work hard to support our work and raise awareness about the plight of the curlew. Curlew Action also works with a number of other curlew groups and organisations to share ideas and support other projects that help curlews, such as the Curlew Recovery Partnership, Curlew Country and the Curlew Forum. Click below to see some of the amazing things our ambassadors have been up to.