AN EAST Lancashire nature reserve is helping to reverse the decline of an endangered British bird.

Reed bunting populations have dropped throughout the UK in recent years, but at Brockholes, just off the M6 at Samlesbury, numbers have nearly doubled in the past five years from 23 to 64 pairs.

Reserve manager Sophie Leadsom, who said that the plan for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve to bring people closer to wildlife without having a negative impact, was working.

She said: “Some of our target species were already present in low numbers in 2007 when we bought the site but not only did we want to increase these numbers we wanted to bring back the ones that haven’t been here for some time.

“Reed warbler and sedge warbler were already present with 18 and 12 pairs respectively in 2007, by 2012 we have managed to increase these to 42 and 39 pairs respectively.

“In 2007 we had just three pairs of little ringed plover but have succeeded in encouraging an additional 10 pairs to breed alongside eight pairs of their cousins the ringed plover.”

Sophie’s records are a mix of her own sightings along with volunteers and bird-watchers at Brockholes.

But despite the success, other familiar birds, like the chaffinch and robin, are set for a difficult winter as the washout summer destroyed sources of berries and seeds.

Peter Thompson, farmland biodiversity advisor with the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: “The appalling wet weather in the UK this summer has proved disastrous for hedgerow berries and fruit and even acorn and beech mast crops are in limited supply. Last year our hedgerows and woods were full of nuts and berries, but this is not the case this winter.

“This means that there will not only be a very limited supply of food for our own native British birds, but also for the wide range of birds heading for our shores from Europe.

“If we have a prolonged cold winter with a lot of snow, many birds are destined not to survive.”

How to look after birds in winter

  • Spreading grain: Select a feeding area either on firm free-draining farm tracks or hard standing areas close to existing areas of overwintered stubbles or wild bird seed mix. Spread the seed and grain along the tracks and ensure it is done frequently so that the seed does not run out.
  • Feed hoppers: Feed hoppers should be between 20-40 litres in size and set at a height of around 20-25 centimetres from the ground.
  • Food siting: It is important to site feeding areas close to cover such as hedges, bushes or trees to provide protection from predators.
  • Timing: The GWCT, recommends hoppers be kept full from January 1 until at least the end of April and in some years, to the end of May.
  • Rat control: Controlling rats as part of the supplementary feeding option is vitally important.