September 17, 2008

Landowners Get Grants to Help Woodland Birds

By Paul Cook

A PIONEERING grant scheme has been launched for landowners to help declining numbers of woodland birds.

The Forestry Commission and the RSPB are offering financial support to land owners and managers in the North-East to improve the habitat for 14 of the country?s vulnerable species.

The scheme is the first of its kind in the country, with several of the targeted species associated with the North Pennines and Northumberland National Park.

The 14 species are redstart, tree pipit, spotted flycatcher, marsh tit, wood warbler, pied flycatcher, woodcock, willow warbler, garden warbler, willow tit, lesser redpoll, bullfinch, lesser spotted woodpecker and hawfinch.

The Forestry Commission said wild birds are a good indicator of the general health of the countryside. They have been chosen as one of the Government?s indicators of progress towards a sustainable development.

The country?s woodland bird population has fallen by 20 per cent in the past 25 years.

Some of the species, including lesser redpoll and willow tit, have more than halved since the Sixties.

The commission believe the decline is because of changes in structure to woodland, including the age and diversity oftree species. It hopes the scheme will include preserving dead trees for natural nest sites, coppicing, controlling grazing levels, creating glades and scrubby areas favoured by many of the species.

The Bird Conservation Targeting Project ? which involves the Forestry Commission, RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology and Natural England ? has identified breeding hotspots within the region.

Colin Grayson, from the Forestry Commission, said: ?Woodland birds are an evocative part of our wildlife and we must do all we can to tackle the chief factors behind such a worrying decline in numbers.

?These include the undermanagement of many of our woods in the North-East. ?

Martin Kerby, from the RSPB, said: ?Getting the right amount of grazing in upland woods can help charismatic species such as wood warbler and pied flycatcher, transSaharan migrants that need just the right kind of woodland when they arrive back in the North-East. ?

For grant guidance or application forms see uk/ northeastengland or contact 01669-621591 or 01388488721.

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