Bird News for UK June 2014

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South Devon RSPB Nature Reserve helps give rare bird a home

South Devon RSPB Nature Reserve helps give rare bird a home

The cirl bunting once faced extinction in the UK. However it is now making a comeback in its south Devon stronghold.

RSPB purchased Labrador Bay from Teignbridge District Council in November 2008, with £100,000 towards the purchase coming from Devon County Council as compensation for predicted impact to cirl bunting habitat arising from the construction of the South Devon Link Road.

The plan was to have a reserve that would provide a safe-haven for this colourful bunting, providing all the vital elements it needed to flourish - safe nesting habitat and plenty of food; seeds in the winter and insects in the summer.

Cath Jeffs, Cirl bunting Project Manager said; "At the time of purchase, we estimated that there were three pairs of cirl buntings on site. There are now 21 pairs breeding and over 50 birds winter on the site – we are well ahead of our projected target which is a fantastic achievement. The RSPB has done lots of habitat improvements including hedge restoration and grassland restoration and it seems that the cirl buntings approve. “

It was hoped that by providing a very productive cirl population on the reserve this would help fuel expansion to other areas.

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Communities, said; “We wanted to ensure that the construction of the South Devon Link Road maintained a balance between the economy and the environment, and by helping the RSPB buy this wonderful reserve it will improve its value for wildlife and preserve it for future generations. This has provided a positive impact for the cirl bunting population as a whole, as well as other wildlife such as bats.”

RSPB were delighted to retain the farming tenant whose family have been farming here for generations. He also farms the land adjacent to the reserve with wildlife as a key consideration and the cirl bunting population off the reserve around the village of Stokeinteignhead is benefiting as a result.

A key component has been community involvement and the support of local volunteers.

Ms Jeffs added; "They are our ambassadors, putting in countless hours. They not only lead informative, enjoyable walks that are open to all but also keep an eye on the Dartmoor ponies and of course monitor the cirl buntings the stars of the show."

Labrador Bay nature reserve is acknowledged as one of the best sites to see cirl buntings in the UK and visitors are rarely disappointed. There will be guided walks at 9.30 am, Sat 26 July and Sun 26 Oct.

This beautiful coastal reserve has plenty of access and trails for all – strenuous walks for those wanting a challenge and gentle strolls for those wanting to admire the view. Stokeinteignhead school have visited and did a wonderful art project. This is something the RSPB is keen to expand on and would love to welcome other schools to the reserve to show the children this special Devon bird.

Cllr George Gribble, Teignbridge District Council’s Executive spokesman for communities recreation and leisure, said; “We really welcome this and see it as a fantastic piece of news and all credit should go to the people involved. Teignbridge benefits greatly from its beautiful countryside and open spaces and Labrador Bay is a popular beauty spot.

When the council disposed of the land as part of an asset review programme in 2008 it was important that it continued to be a haven for wildlife and its beauty was preserved so it could be enjoyed by the public. It was important that the site’s potential was realised which is why TDC felt the RSPB would be the preferred purchaser of the site. We have worked in partnership with RSPB here, providing funding for management and visitor interpretation, so it’s great to know that the reserve has been so successful and the cirl bunting population is flourishing. “

“Big thanks should go to the local volunteers and the farming family for their commitment and consideration in looking after our environment.”

The reserve has been so successful that the RSPB hopes similar opportunities for partnership projects in Teignbridge may become available in the near future.

First for Isle of Wight marsh harrier pair as their chicks hatch on RSPB reserve

First for Isle of Wight marsh harrier pair as their chicks hatch on RSPB reserve

“I have been observing the marsh harrier pair for the last month and their behaviour has changed,” said Keith Ballard, reserve manager at RSPB Brading Marshes. “In the beginning, the male would pass food to the female in flight and the female took it to a place away from the nest to eat it.

“Now she has started taking the food directly to the nest, which is a strong indication that she is feeding chicks,” Keith added.

The marsh harriers are not the only newcomers to breed on the Isle of Wight this year. A little egret and a great crested grebe pair are also nesting on the island for the first time. Neither appears to have hatched any chicks yet.

“Marsh Harriers can typically lay 4 to 5 eggs, and at the moment we do not know how many chicks have hatched ,” said Keith. “Usually you would expect a minimum of three but there may be more. It usually depends on the amount of food available.”

The marsh harriers are nesting right in the middle of the reed bed. “The male comes in regularly with food, and the female comes off the nest and takes the food from him,” said Keith.

It will be three or four weeks before the chicks get any feathers, and the parent birds then encourage them to fly – which is the only way they will get out of the reed bed. “They coax them out of the nest by flying over with food,” Keith said.

“The fledged juveniles are chocolate brown with golden heads so they will be quite obvious when they do emerge,” he added. They have a voracious appetite and the parents are kept busy feeding them. They eat small mammals, and unwary waterfowl that are small enough to carry..

“It is brilliant that the marsh harriers have managed to breed here particularly as it shows that the correct wetland management has created the right conditions. It’s the first year that there has been suitable habitat for them.”

If visitors would like to try and see the marsh harriers they should pick up a northern trail booklet from Brading Marshes station and proceed to Laundry Lane.

East Scotland sea eagles try again

A white-tailed eagle chick has successfully hatched in Fife for the second year running, it was announced today.

The nest in Forestry Commission Scotland woodland in Fife was built by a pair of birds, known as Turquoise 1 and Turquoise Z after their identifying wing tags, which were released in 2009 as part of the East Scotland Sea Eagle reintroduction project.

The reintroduction saw 85 birds released on the east coast of Scotland between 2007 and 2012 and its first successful nesting attempt last year.

Rhian Evans, East Scotland Sea Eagle Officer, said: 'It’s really exciting that this pair have nested again this year, particularly after the sad news that last year’s chick—the first to fledge in east Scotland for nearly 200 years - disappeared in April in upper Strathdon. We hope this chick will fledge successfully, but will have a happier fate than its brother and eventually have chicks of its own.'

A nestwatch programme manned by more than 20 volunteers from the local community has been established to ensure the site is protected from accidental or deliberate disturbance.

This year, three new white-tailed eagle pairs have established in the east of Scotland. White-tailed eagles, or sea eagles, can live for 25-30 years and generally mate for life. They were driven to extinction by persecution, with the last bird shot in 1918.

Reintroduction into Scotland has taken place in three phases starting in 1975. The east Scotland reintroduction was the third phase in the Scottish reintroduction. It was a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland with funding from Leader (2011-2013) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (2011-2014).

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