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    Rare birds boom after unusual summer

    NewsRare Birds NewsMonday 03 October 2011
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    Natural England says that despite the coldest summer in two decades, many species have fared far better than expected with the warm spring giving them a head start early in the year.

    Rare birds have thrived after years of decline as the damp summer conditions have provided them with rich supplies of food while blooms of jelly fish, unwelcome visitors for many swimmers, have also brought large numbers of seagoing visitors to Britain's shores.

    Andrew Wood, Natural England's director of science and evidence warned, however, that some species have fared badly as a result of the poor summer months with many butterfly species suffering declines.

    He said: "It's wonderful to see some of our rarest species like the spoonbill, hazel pot beetle and red-backed shrike enjoying such a revival of fortune.

    "But the list of species which have fared badly this year highlights the difficulties that continue to face some of our best-loved wildlife.

    Wildlife winners include:

     

    Bitterns

    This relative of the grey heron has seen its breeding population rise from just 11 males in 1997 to 104 this year, making this the birds' most successful year since records began.

    Bitterns have also bred for the first time in more than 40 years at Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve in Kent. Habitat restoration work combined with the damp summer weather has meant the wetland reed beds where these birds live have been in perfect condition.

     

    Spoonbills

    These birds had not bred in the UK for more than 300 years until last year when a small group of six pairs managed to produce chicks at Holkham National Nature Reserve in north Norfolk. This year 8 pairs bred and produced 14 chicks.

    The presence of healthy pools of water around the nesting colony as a result of the damp summer is allowed the adults to find food easily and raise their chicks, according to Natural England's reserve manager Michael Rooney.

     

    Red-backed shrike

    Once extinct in the UK, these extremely rare birds were placed under 24-hour guard to ensure two breeding pairs in Dartmore were able to breed successfully this summer. Also known as butcher-birds due to their habit of impaling some of their prey on thorns, these small insect eaters benefited from the early boom in insects and caterpillars in the spring. They produced seven youngsters.

    Wildlife losers include:

    The Dartford Warbler

    The situation facing these heathland birds was so severe this year that the RSPB was forced to put out emergency feeding posts in their territories to help prevent them from starving after the harsh winter. Woodland birds such as the marsh tit, willow tit and hawfinch have also suffered declines, with numbers having fallen by around 19 per cent since 1994, as woodland areas have dried out.

    Source: The Telegraph

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