Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 12:32 UK

Wetlands created for rare birds


The new wetland habitat in Cheshire has been created by conservationists

A machine which creates ditches to attract rare birds to farmland is being used for the first time in the north-west of England.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has imported the "big wheel rotary ditcher" from America.

It is hoped it will create wet pools to attract declining species, like Lapwing and Redshank, to five Cheshire farms.

The farms are near the River Gowy, a tributary of the Mersey, which runs from Peckforton to Stanlow.

The RSPB hopes the ditching machine, a giant rotating digger pulled by a tractor, will help re-colonising lost breeding grounds.

It said many of Cheshire's wet meadows have disappeared over the past 50 years due to development, land drainage and changes in agriculture.

Lapwing (Photo courtesy of RSPB)
It is hoped that Lapwings will be attracted to the ditches

All the farmers involved have entered Natural England's flagship Environmental Stewardship Scheme, and the work is funded through this.

Andrew Gouldstone, RSPB area conservation manager, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for more wetland creation in Cheshire.

"We are delighted to see the ditcher in the county, and it is great that these farmers have been willing to use it on their land.

"The Stewardship scheme will fund the work, but the involvement of the farmers is crucial.

"The ongoing management they undertake will help the long term survival of these habitats and birds."

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