Gamekeepers and a farmer hatched a cunning plan to save a clutch of curlew eggs after the mother bird was killed by a dog off the lead.

The nest was on farmland in Wensleydale, where farmers, gamekeepers and the landowner work in partnership for curlew conservation.

The farmer saw the incident and contacted one of the gamekeepers to see if the eggs could be saved.

At the same time, on a neighbouring moor in Arkengarthdale, a curlew was spotted sitting on an empty nest – or scrape – for three weeks without laying.

Darren Chadwick, coordinator of the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group, said: “We thought we might be able to solve two problems in one go by persuading the broody bird to hatch the motherless eggs.”

The gamekeepers are licensed to monitor and approach curlew nests for conservation work.

The eggs were found to have strong heartbeats, and were placed under one of the keeper’s broody hens to ensure they did not cool down, before being transferred to an incubator.

Replica eggs used for conservation purposes were placed into the nest on Arkengarthdale to gauge the female bird’s reaction, and she took to them well. After eight days in the incubator the eggs began to “pip” – a crucial moment when the chicks are about to hatch out. At this point the real eggs were placed in the nest and three chicks have now hatched successfully.

Mr Chadwick said: “Everyone is delighted with the result and these chicks are fortunate to have hatched in an area where all the farmers, keepers and landowners work together to protect ground-nesting birds. We would urge everyone to please keep their dogs on a lead and stick to the paths during nesting season. This is one of the UK’s most important curlew habitats.”