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.
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 (CRP) 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.
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.
Many of the curlew we see here in the UK breed in other European countries including: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland and Northern Germany. To protect our curlew we must develop an understanding of the international picture and promote communication and collaboration. The Eurasian Curlew is just the start, there are eight species of Curlew around the world, Curlew Action would like to establish connections across the world to protect all curlew species.
Curlew Action is working to produce resources and information that will help communities protect their local Curlew populations. Understanding localised issues is important to us and if you would like to speak to us please get in touch. We will release more information as soon as possible. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.
The story of curlew action
British Birds paper: The Eurasian Curlew – the most pressing bird conservation priority in the UK? (Brown et al. 2015)
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.
November 2016 - Irish Curlew conference
Following Mary's walk, she organised a series of national conferences. The Irish conference produced the Curlew Task Force, which became the Curlew Conservation Programme
February 2017 - Southern England Curlew Conference
The Curlew Forum was established at this meeting – a coalition of southern, lowland curlew groups that meet annually to share resources and experiences. It is a unique grouping and highly valued.
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.
January 2018 - Welsh Curlew Conference
This produced Curlew Wales which has become established and organised with a Wales Action Plan.
March 2018 - Dartmoor Curlew Summit - Convened by then Prince Charles
September 2018 - Scottish Curlew Conference
Organised with Working for Waders. It resulted in an increase in the profile of curlews in Scotland and a closer collaboration with their outreach, specifically through Patrick Laurie.
July 2019 - Downing Street Curlew summit
For the first time it brought in politicians and national agencies. The basis for the Curlew Recovery Partnership were laid down. Click the image to read summary.
February: Highgrove Curlew summit. 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.
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.
On the 21st of April (World Curlew Day), the Natural History GCSE was confirmed! Curlew Action began our work to ensure the GCSE is a success.
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. In addition to Curlew Moon, she is the author of three more books: John Muir: The Scotsman Who Saved America’s Wild Places; Beak, Tooth and Claw: Living with Predators in Britain; and The Gathering Place: A Winter Pilgrimage Through Changing Times.
Favourite bird (other than a Curlew): Eider duck
Ellen is a biologist, wildlife artist and environmental campaigner. She is the Co-Director of UK Youth for Nature and sells graphite drawings of British wildlife. Ellen 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!”
Megan is a naturalist and science writer. She has worked in nature communications and the conservation sector for a variety of organisations and charities, including BBC Wildlife magazine, the National Trust, Dorset and Radnorshire Wildlife Trusts and the Field Studies Council. She has contributed to the Seasons anthologies published by the Wildlife Trusts, Into The Red published by the BTO, and BBC Countryfile magazine and website, and produced episodes for the magazine’s award-winning podcast, The Plodcast. She enjoys moth trapping, camping / campervanning and playing board games.
Favourite bird (other than a Curlew): It varies depending on what I've recently seen! Currently it's the swift, which I'm trying to attract to a nestbox on my house.
Partnerships and Engagement Lead
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, before going on to work 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, Geneva, and an MPhil in Conservation Leadership from University of Cambridge. He is an associate fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, a qualified member of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, and former forestry operative. He oversees project management and organisational planning at the charity.
Favourite bird (other than a Curlew): African Giant Kingfisher
Professor Russell Wynn has been Director of Wild New Forest CIC since 2020, a not-for-profit conservation organisation in the New Forest National Park. Prior to that he enjoyed a 20-year science career at the UK National Oceanography Centre, culminating in a two-year stint as Associate Director and an ongoing role as Honorary Professor at University of Southampton. Russell also has extensive ornithological and conservation experience, including former roles as Chairman of the Seabird Group of UK and Ireland, and Manager of the England Curlew Recovery Partnership. He is a keen all-round naturalist and photographer, and has previously captured the first photo of Blue Whale in English waters, found and photographed the first Balearic Woodchat Shrike for Scotland, and most recently found the first UK specimen of Coprinopsis alnivora, a globally rare inkcap fungus!
Favourite bird (other than a Curlew): Balearic Shearwater (I can justifiably claim to have fallen in love with them before Tim did!)
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.