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A haven for the elusive corncrake

Corncrake. Copyright Andy Hay/RSPB
Rare birds have fared far better than more common species over the last decade

The tenth annual State of the UK's birds report, published by the RSPB in October 2009, suggested that rare birds have been faring far better than their more common counterparts, largely due to specific conservation efforts.

Of the 63 rare birds that breed in the UK, the research shows that 60 per cent have increased in numbers over the last ten years. That is double the rise in more common species.

Rare birds, of fewer than 1000 pairs, with increasing populations include the osprey, corncrake, avocet, cirl bunting and stone-curlew. All of them subject to conservation action.

Dr David Noble of the British Trust for Ornithology said:

"That some of our rarer birds have responded to targeted conservation action is great news. It shows just what can be achieved.

"What we need to do now is to continue the good work and use some of the lessons we have learned to help our more common birds."

North Yorkshire success

The report praises conservation work at the Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve near York which has seen the highest number of breeding pairs of corncrakes in 20 years.

The Natural England reserve, which includes lush wetland and sweet smelling hay meadows around the banks of the River Derwent between York and Selby, is home to a large number of England's breeding corncrake population.

Corncrake numbers plummeted in the second half of the 20th century because changes in farming practices meant their natural habitats were lost.

Lower Derwent Valley nature reserve.
Lower Derwent Valley nature reserve provides the perfect haven

They are small, brown coloured birds which are seldom seen as they hide and nest among tall vegetation.

They have a very distinctive and endearing call which sounds like a nail being run down the length of a comb. In flight, their bright chestnut wings and trailing legs are unmistakable.

Craig Ralston, Natural England's senior reserve manager said:

"We were really delighted to support such a healthy population of this enigmatic bird.

"We've spent a lot of time in the last few years making the habitat better for them and we've had really great support and involvement from surrounding famers too."

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