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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 00:35 GMT
RSPB unveils its latest reserve
Broubster Leans. (Pic: RSPB Images)
Broubster Leans is a mixture of wetlands and pasture
More than 700 acres of wetland in the north of Scotland have become RSPB Scotland's newest nature reserve.

Broubster Leans on the floodplain of Forss Water, south-west of Thurso, provides habitat for wading birds, insects and water vole.

RSPB Scotland hopes its work on the reserve will help reverse a decline in wild bird numbers.

Membership donations have allowed the charity to buy 494 acres. It will also manage a further 247 acres.

Traditional farming, particularly extensive cattle grazing, has been essential in maintaining a mixture of habitats.

Over the last 20 years we have seen an alarming decrease in some of our wader and farmland bird populations
Dr Peter Mayhew
RSPB Scotland

The wet grasslands, pools, mires and drier pastures are visited by hen harriers and short-eared owls.

Birds such as greenshank, golden plover, lapwing, snipe, redshank and common sandpiper breed on the reserve in the summer.

In winter, it can be visited by 200 Greenland white-fronted geese and up to 80 whooper swans.

Rare spotted crake and water vole have also been found on the reserve.

'Delicate balance'

RSPB Scotland said in the past decade the number of waders in the area had halved from about 100 pairs to 50.

Dr Peter Mayhew, RSPB's senior conservation manager for north Scotland, said Broubster Leans was in a "magical" part of Scotland.

He said: "Over the last 20 years we have seen an alarming decrease in some of our wader and farmland bird populations, coupled to the loss of wetland habitat and changes in land management practices.

"At Broubster the delicate balance of pasture, fen and wetland that have been established over centuries of human interaction with the land makes this an exceptional area despite it being one of the toughest farming environments in the UK."



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