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Gressingham Duck teams up with The Last Lapwing Campaign to save endangered birds

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A duck farming business has formed an unlikely partnership with a wildlife conservation group to save the endangered birds along the Little Ouse River.

Gressingham Foods has teamed up with The Last Lapwing Campaign to help preserve lapwings, which are native to the Little Ouse and have been in decline since the 1970s.

The partnership arose after local campaigner and artist Juliet Aster approached Gressingham, alerting the business that there was a pair of lapwings nesting on the grounds of its abattoir in Hinderclay Road.

George Seinet (left) holding the medal given to him by Juliet Aster (right). Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.
George Seinet (left) holding the medal given to him by Juliet Aster (right). Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.

Bosses promptly decided to stall farming operations until the chicks had fledged the nest.

Ms Aster, who lives in Blo’ Norton, said: “We kept a look out for nesting lapwings and began monitoring them. A couple of breeding pairs had taken up residence on two sites in the valley.

“One of their regular nesting sites, it turns out, happens to be on land owned by Gressingham Duck.

“As nests are so easily destroyed by heavy farm machinery, it meant contacting the landowners where the pairs were nesting.”

The 60-year-old was unsure what response she would get from Gressingham, having recently written to them about her disappointment after an investigation claimed that the company had been involved in serious mistreatment of its animals.

“I found myself in a slightly complicated situation, having written to them a few months earlier, responding to an article about animal welfare issues at their Redgrave site,” she said.

“Because of this, I really didn’t know what to expect, so was both relieved and hugely thankful that their environmental manager was so keen to help.

“With his input, farming operations were temporarily stalled, and at least one chick successfully fledged this year.”

George Seinet, the environmental manager who responded to Ms Aster’s enquiry, added: “Nests are easily destroyed by farming machinery, so when we discovered the rare lapwings, we agreed we’d put a halt on farming activity in that area until the birds had fledged.

“And it worked. After closely monitoring the lapwings in the weeks that followed, we were both delighted to spot a chick successfully fledge the nest.

“We picked work back up once the birds were gone, and farming timings stayed on track. We always aim to maintain a commitment to farming with nature, rather than farming against it.”

To thank Gressingham for its efforts, The Last Lapwing Campaign presented Mr Seinet with the ‘2021 Lapwing Champion Award’, while its management team were given handcrafted, limited edition medallion booklets on lapwings.

The company has now made a commitment to continue to work more closely with the Last Lapwing Project and also the Little Ouse Headwaters Project, which supports habitats, including the wetlands on Gressingham’s land.

Mr Seinet added: ‘Thanks to this partnership, we’ve learnt even more about supporting the species.

“Changes such as going back to spring sown crops, or leaving patches of bare earth, could make a marked difference in ensuring our native lapwings continue to repopulate. “

Ms Aster added: “At least the Lapwings will have a chance next year, but it only highlights the vulnerable situation these birds are in when it comes to habitat loss.”

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