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Rarities and Recordings

Episode 24 of 24

In the last episode of the current series, Brett Westwood looks at a bird on the edge of extinction - the slender-billed curlew - plus the declining levels of UK moths.

In this week's programme species conservation stories reveal the importance of recording both the rarity and the commonplace. The Slender-billed curlew is on the edge of extinction, no official confirmed records of its existence have occurred since 2001 although there have been sightings of it in 2010 but photographic evidence was not taken. Horatio Clare, a writer and journalist, is on a quest, to follow the route of the bird's migration route from its Siberian breeding grounds to the area around the Mediterranean Basin, to hopefully find evidence that it still exists.

Kelvin Boot finds out about the threat facing many species of moths in the southern part of the UK, the recent "State of Britain's Larger Moths Report 2013" with data accumulated over the last 40 years has shown that there has been a 28% decline overall in abundance of larger moth species and in some areas like southern England, the figure is as high as 40%.

While moths have to be trapped and counted, the satellite transmitters attached to the BTO cuckoos allows their movements to be monitored via computer - Kelvin Jones of the BTO in Wales gives the latest movement of the cuckoos still sending signals back from Central Africa as they gear up to begin their migration back to the UK. David is the last Welsh cuckoo that information is still being received from and hopefully too the Saving Species cuckoo, Chris.

The OU and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology report on the value and legacy of wildlife records being received from everyone. iSpot and other methods of collecting information from a broad base of amateur and professional naturalists based all over the country, are amassing a vital valuable amount of data which is aiding other record centres and recording schemes to gain a better picture of the fortunes of many species and groups of animals.

Producer: Sheena Duncan
Presenter: Brett Westwood.

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28 minutes

Last on

Thu 14 Feb 2013 21:00

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The Slender-billed Curlew

The Slender-billed Curlew

The Slender-billed Curlew (Numenius tenuirostris) has very few recent confirmed records, plus sightings have become more and more infrequent. No regular breeding, passage or wintering population is known, resulting in the species qualifying as critically endangered.

The species is small, standing at only around 36-41cm and are defined by their curved bill which tapers to distinctly fine, sharp tip with narrow base.  They are a mottled brown-grey colour with white under-parts  and black heart-shaped spots on the sides of adults.

Image courtesy of Martin Reid.

Moths in the UK

Moths in the UK

Butterfly Conservation’s new State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013 report shows clearly that moths are in decline. The total number of larger moths recorded in the national network of Rothamsted trap samples decreased by 28% over the 40 years from 1968 to 2007.


Declines are worse in southern Britain, with a 40% decrease in total abundance, while there was no overall change in northern Britain (where declines have been offset by increases). Forty-year national population trends were generated for 337 species of widespread and common moths. Two-thirds show decreasing population trends and over one-third (37%) of the species decreased by more than 50%.

Although the majority of trends are negative, 53 species more than doubled their population levels. Many of these species have also undergone dramatic range expansions, particularly northwards.


Picture shows a Spring Usher Moth and is courtesy of Patrick Clement from Butterfly Conservation.

Cuckoo Tracking

Cuckoo Tracking

In 2011 as part of the Cuckoo Project, The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) attached satellite-tracking devices to Cuckoos from Norfolk to find out more about their important stop-over sites and wintering destinations on the way to and from Africa.


In 2012, birds from Wales and Scotland have also been tagged.  The BTO Tracking Cuckoos webpage gives information on the various cuckoos that have been tagged and the paths they have taken.


  • Tue 12 Feb 2013 11:00
  • Thu 14 Feb 2013 21:00

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