Sheep collars trialled in Cumbria are helping protect endangered bird species

The collars use non harmful pulses to teach sheep not to stray into the areas where birds prefer to nest. Credit: ITV Border.

New sheep collar technology, is being trialled in Cumbria to help protect endangered bird species nesting.

The trial, which is being carried out at RSPB Geltsdale, involves Nofence collars.

The collars use non harmful pulses to teach sheep not to stray outside of their boundaries, and help ensure the areas where the birds prefer to nest are now left undisturbed.

Similar technology is already used in dog collars, and is controlled via an app to create a virtual fence.

A flock of 22 Herdwick sheep have been grazing a 26-acre Nofence enclosure since February, to help protect the areas where the birds nest.

Since the sheep have now left the area, already Curlew, Lapwing and Skylark have been sighted nesting and the first Lapwing chicks are expected to hatch within the next couple of weeks.

Ian Bell, who owns the sheep, has been tenant Farmer at Tarnhouse Farm, at RSPB Geltsdale since 2016.

Ian said: “I must admit I was sceptical at first as to how our sheep would respond, but this new Nofence technology is a game-changer.

"We want to manage the land to create a mosaic of habitats rich with wildlife and show how nature friendly farming can enrich the landscape.

“Herdwicks are notorious escape artists and certain individuals have a complete disregard for field boundaries, however, we have managed to train the sheep to go exactly where we want them to.

"The technology appears to be better than a stonewall!”

It's hoped this new technology will help protect some of Britain's native species just in time for the ground nesting birds' breeding season, and create suitable nesting habitats or some of the UK's most threatened farmland birds.

Lapwing, Curlew and Skylark are on the UK red list, which means they are at the highest level of conservation concern.

Ian Ryding, Warden, RSPB Geltsdale, said: “Curlews, Lapwing, Skylark, and other ground nesting birds urgently need our help.

"Already these birds are nesting, sitting on their eggs, so this is encouraging to see, and the first Lapwing chicks are expected in the next couple of weeks.”

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