August 19, 2008

Successful Partnerships Bring Huge Benefits for Our Wildlife ; In Association With Environment Agency

By Leanne Clough

AS both a landowner and operator, Northumbrian Water is committed to conserving and enhancing wildlife in the region. It works in partnership with wildlife trusts, Natural England, local authorities and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to protect and enhance the environment.

Its involvement as one of the principal partners of the regional Northern Kites project, which is managed by the RSPB and English Nature, working in partnership with Gateshead Council, the National Trust and the Forestry Commission, with additional funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Sita Trust, is one example of how it is helping to improve the conservation status of birds.

Northern Kites was formed to reintroduce and ultimately re- establish the red kite as a breeding bird in North East England.

Northumbrian Water is a partner in the Black Grouse Recovery Project, a 12-year partnership with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Natural England, RSPB, Ministry of Defence and North Pennines Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership.

The black grouse species, once common in the UK, has been under threat for a number of years, owing to predators and a loss of habitat. A successful restoration drive by the project has increased the English population of the bird and is extending the species' stronghold in the North Pennines to more remote areas in north-west Northumberland and the Yorkshire Dales.

The water company is also part of a regional forum established to enable conservation organisations to secure and expand water vole populations in the North East, a species which has undergone a catastrophic decline in numbers in the Northumberland and Durham areas. Other representatives on this forum include the Environment Agency, Tees, Durham and Northumberland Wildlife Trusts, Northumberland Biodiversity Partnership, Northumberland National Park, Durham County Council and North Pennines AONB Partnership.

Over the years, there have been a number of rare and unusual sightings of nature found in and around Northumbrian Water's sites:

Oystercatchers nesting in a tarpaulin stretched over a winch on a Northumbrian Water-owned barge, moored 300 yards offshore at Leaplish Waterside Park, Kielder Water and Forest Park, Northumberland Oystercatchers usually create small depressions in shingle to lay their eggs, but an indentation was made in the tarpaulin and eggs laid there instead.

The barge was to be used to place five-tonne mooring blocks for pleasure boats on Kielder Water in May 2008, but work was halted for several weeks until the birds reared their family.

Northern spike-rush at Bakethin Weir, Kielder This is currently the only recorded site in Northumberland.

Violet crystalwort, found in a drawdown zone at Colt Crag Reservoir, near to Little Swinburne, Northumberland This is a rare land plant (bryophyte) which is classified as vulnerable in Great Britain and Europe. It receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The zone between the annual high and low reservoir levels is called the drawdown zone.

Great crested newts, found in the former sludge disposal area at Fontburn Reservoir, Northumberland

White-clawed crayfish in Hallington Aqueduct, on the Whittle Dene water course, Northumberland The white-clawed crayfish, once widespread in Britain, has been in decline since the 1980s.

The white-clawed crayfish is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), and is a UKBAP Priority Species.

Broomrape, found at Derwent Reservoir, near Edmundbyers Broomrape is a parasitic plant. As they have no chlorophyll, they are totally dependent on other plants for nutrients.

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.