Concern about impact on rare nesting birds of tree planting in Swaledale

The newly-plated trees. Photo: Mark Waterton.

Concerns have been raised about the impact on rare nesting birds of hundreds if trees being planted on land in Swaledale.

It is claimed the planting of the 3.8 hectares of native woodland near Keld earlier this month has resulted in curlews — a species synonymous with the Yorkshire Dales which which has been red-listed due to declining numbers — being disturbed and abandoning their nests.

Photographic evidence of a smashed egg and a nest which has been abandoned by the parent birds has been taken by local ornithologist Darren Chadwick.

However, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) has dismissed the criticism.

The authority, which approved the planting after consultation with experts, said the land was unsuitable for wading birds such as curlews.

A smashed egg near the saplings.


A curlew nest thought to have been abandoned.

Mr Chadwick said the pasture was planted up earlier this month after being bought by a private landowner.

He said: “I keepered that ground years ago and still live near it.

“It holds at least one pair of red-listed curlews — a bird regarded as being of the highest conservation priority.

“So why can it be permissible to plant this ground up with trees bang in the middle of nesting time? This field also hosted meadow pipits and snipe, all ground-nesting species.”

In response, YDNPA said that the site had been subject to “wide-ranging assessment and regulatory checks”.

The authority said in a statement: “Together with the Woodland Trust we carried out a detailed assessment of the site which found it to be unsuitable for waders due to slope, topography and nearby features affecting wader productivity – such as trees, other woodlands, overhead lines.

“All relevant bodies, including the Forestry Commission, Natural England and the RSPB, agreed that woodland creation here would not have a significant detrimental impact on core wader populations.

“Therefore, this scheme successfully progressed through the Forestry Commission’s environmental impact assessment screening process, and permission was granted to plant.”

The pasture near Keld. Photo: YDNPA.

YDNPA said it agreed that planting in May was “not ideal”.

It added: “Unfortunately, the initial site planting had to be delayed.

“We are, though, confident the saplings will thrive — having been in cold storage to force extended dormancy, and cell grown — and the contractor responsible for planting is highly experienced, having worked in the national park for over 20 years.”

But Mr Chadwick added: “One nest (unknown species) with flattened shells and an abandoned curlew egg are the most heartbreaking truth that prove the YDNPA surveying is a complete waste of time and lacks any purpose and integrity.

“During my walk up this hill I saw snipe, woodcock, four curlews, four oystercatchers and five lapwings.

“That’s not bad for a patch of ground that the RSPB, Natural England and YDNPA said was not wader habitat.”

Richmondshire Today has been unable to contact the landowner of the site.


  1. Mr Chadwick claims that one damaged nest is ‘proof’ that all the experts are wrong. It’s not proof at all. Crows, dogs and sheep all attack curlew nests which are then abandoned. I’m not aware of trees doing so.

    Let’s have some proper arguments please.

  2. Tragically heart-breaking beyond words and no doubt subsidies will mean that the farmer will not have paid a penny for this intrusion into the wader habitat. Such huge plantations will never substitute for the masses of trees being cut down all the time in natural 7 layered forests throughout the world

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