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Charity cash to help keep rare birds here
A RARE bird bucking the national trend could be here to stay after a £109,000 funding boost.
The money is to be used over the next four years to increase the number of snipe at Otmoor Nature Reserve, near Beckley.
The 1,000-acre Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) reserve is the only place in Oxfordshire the bird breeds.
Nationally there has been a population decline of 60 per cent since the 1980s but the reserve has a stable population of 13 breeding pairs, up from 12 last year.
Nature reserve warden Joe Harris said: “This is the only place in this part of the country where snipe still breed so we are very lucky to have them.
“We are hoping to boost the breeding population to increase the numbers. We have seen a small increase, which is slightly bucking the national trend.
“They are a very special bird as well. They are very intriguing – they have the longest bill of any bird species and their breeding display is unique.
“It would be a real shame to lose the population.”
Staff at the reserve have been given the task of improving the structure of the soil to make it more suitable for worms, an important food source for snipe.
Since August staff have been spreading manure for nutrients and gypsum to loosen the soil to attract worms. They are also using tractor-towed machinery to aerate the soil and help the snipe get at worms.
The funding announced last week is from WREN, a not-for-profit business that gives grants generated by landfill tax to projects across the UK.
Peter Barker, a volunteer at RSPB Otmoor, said: “Snipe are a very special Otmoor breeding bird – they are secretive and agile in flight. To see them here in southern grassland brings an exciting touch of wildness to central southern England.”
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