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Efforts to protect godwits often frustrating for farmers

Number of nesting birds in steady decline

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

GERSLOOT, the Netherlands - Regional efforts to halt the decline of the number of the black-tailed godwits nesting on farmland in Friesland are proving to be frustrating. Some farmers, who have signed subsidized contracts to stay away from their fields in late Spring, often find that fragile nests have been destroyed anyway, perhaps by predators such as the fox.

The birds, known in Dutch as grutto (and in Frisian as skiezen), now are the subject of a nation-wide preservation campaign. With the slogan Nederland-Gruttoland, organizers are trying to create conditions conducive for an increase in the number of nests, which between 1985 and 2000 was cut in half to 45,000. The Netherlands is the most important nesting place for the birds, with half of these breeding in Friesland.

The grutto-campaign aims to expand the number of acres on which farmers participate in the preservation drive. These farmers take measures to create undisturbed nesting grounds for the birds, a voluntary effort which recently has been subsidized by a government program. Despite these efforts, nests often are emptied and eggs destroyed. The so-called ‘grutto farmers’ however continue their preservation efforts, despite the frustration of finding empty nests after their farm work was postponed to allow the birds to breed in peace.

Gersloot is a community just north of the town of Heerenveen and nearby the Frisian lake district.