By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent
UK birdlovers are delighted that an attempt to re-establish the corncrake in England appears to be going well.
The corncrake is a relative of the coot and moorhen
A group of month-old corncrake chicks has been spotted on the reserve where they are being released in England.
The State of the UK's Birds 2003 says the corncrake is one of 12 threatened species whose numbers are increasing.
But 13 others continue to decline, and two - the red-backed shrike and the wryneck - are now said to be "virtually extinct" as breeding birds in the UK.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Zoological Society of London and English Nature are collaborating in the Corncrake Project.
It released 55 young birds at the RSPB's Nene Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire in 2003, and 59 more this year. The chicks just sighted are thought to be the offspring of a female bird seen on the reserve.
The corncrake (Crex crex), a relative of the coot and moorhen, nests in Scottish hay meadows and other grasslands where there is dense vegetation.
One of the new corncrake chicks (Image: Grahame Madge)
A summer visitor from sub-Saharan Africa, it is the most threatened bird in the world to nest regularly in the UK.
The State of the UK's Birds is published by the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
It says there has been "a welcome increase in the numbers of a dozen of our most threatened birds" whose populations have increased over the last decade.
No farmland recovery
They include the stone-curlew, song thrush, cirl bunting, corncrake, capercaillie, bittern and tree sparrow.
Conservation work for several birds of prey, including the osprey, red kite and white-tailed eagle, shows what the report calls "encouraging" results.
But it says: "The numbers of specialist farmland birds are still very low when compared with the numbers in 1970. For every 100 pairs of birds nesting on agricultural land in 1970 there are only 58 today.
A male red-backed shrike feeds his chicks (Image: Mike Richards/RSPB Images)
"The overall populations of the UK's specialist woodland birds are also in decline."
The report says 13 of the UK's most threatened birds, including the starling, yellowhammer, willow tit and turtle dove, are continuing to decline.
Two, the red-backed shrike and the wryneck, it describes as "virtually extinct" as British breeding birds.