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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
MP gets up close to rare species
The Bittern needs reedbeds to breed
Essential work to safeguard one of the UK's most endangered birds will be viewed by Morecambe and Lunesdale MP Geraldine Smith on Wednesday.

The Bittern is classed by the Royal society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as on its red list - species which need the most urgent action.

Ms Smith will see how European Union cash is helping to secure the bird's breeding grounds at Leighton Moss.

The RSPB is restoring the reedbeds at its Leighton Moss reserve.

Species' protection

"Research has shown that bitterns like younger reedbeds, so now conservationists are in a race against time to develop Silverdale Moss and rehabilitate Leighton Moss," said Ms Smith.

"If we don't take action now, the unthinkable will happen and bitterns will die out, even in this most protected of places - a situation which we must do all we can to prevent."

Leighton Moss is one of three UK reserves which have reedbeds which are essential for breeding bitterns.

Flotation tanks have been transported from the USA to support a special excavator to get into the reedbed without sinking.

Successful nests

The machinery will dig out sediment and debris to allow new reeds to grow.

Only one male has bred at the site in recent years, but the RSPB said the number of successful nests is increasing.

"By developing new reedbeds at Silverdale Moss and restoring the kind of habitat bitterns like, we hope that by 2012 we will have sufficient habitat to support a further two males," said Robin Horner, site manager.

More than 200,000 of EU funding has been pumped into the project but future cash is threatened by the European Commission's plan to end its LIFE Nature programme which promotes biodiversity.

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