A PROJECT to protect the future of Burnley’s native songbird will be entering a vital phase over the next 12 months.

Work to safeguard the survival of the twite, otherwise known as the Pennine finch, has seen around 500 hectares of hay meadows created across the South Pennines.

And the moorlands habitats have been reseeded with the likes of sorrel and dandelions to give the threatened creatures the greatest possible chance.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is now watching and waiting, over the next year, to see if the move bears fruit for the twite population.

RSPB officer Tim Melling said: “Following all this good work we are now waiting for to see what effect it will have and we should get some results when we begin our annual survey in 2015.”

The now-completed £3million Watershed Landscape heritage project, supported by regeneration agency Pennine Prospects, provided a major boost for the charity’s efforts.

Charlotte Weightman was employed for three years as a habitat officer, responsible for liaising with farmers and landowners in the South Pennines.

Mr Melling praised her role, where she had not only convinced landlords to convert spare land to hay meadows but had offered ongoing assistance when it came to planting and maintenance.

“All the final bits of the work will be going on over the next year, so the land will be fully available for the twites, and we should start to see the results next year,” he added.

An estimated 90 or more landowners have signed up to the Twite Recovery Project, which itself is now five years old.