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Tree sparrows found thriving in South Tyneside

The National Trust  has good news regarding the once common tree sparrow after a number of birds were found successfully nesting and breeding on a three mile strip of coastal land in South Tyneside.

The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park, the site of an abandoned colliery, is cared for by the conservation charity and is now a wildlife rich haven for birds with small woodland copses, wildflower meadows and scrub.

Latest reports show that tree sparrows are now thriving within the 32 hectare park with numbers having grown from just one pair six years ago to 120 individual birds this winter.

The Trust had been so concerned for the tree sparrow that it placed the bird on its red list after a massive 93 per cent decline was recorded between 1970 and 2008. This was largely due to intensive farming methods which left little grain post-harvest in fields to provide feed for over-wintering birds.

However, two tree sparrows were spotted and successfully caught and ringed by the Whitburn Ringing Group in spring 2012, followed by two more pairs in 2013. Last year ten breeding pairs were reported after nest boxes were placed around the site.

Dougie Holden, National Trust Ranger says:  “Their settlement in the area is remarkable considering how scarce these beautiful little birds have become in southern and western regions of Britain.

“Most people wouldn’t associate these birds with long distance travel but tree sparrows are regularly known to migrate.  British ringed birds have been found in France, Belgium and The Netherlands, just as continental ringed birds have been found in the UK.

“Their presence on the site is a wonderful reminder of how things would have looked locally 50 or 60 years ago.”

Other birds on the British Trust for Ornithology’s red list also making a home in the park include 25 pairs of breeding linnets, a couple of breeding yellow hammers and grey partridge.

Wildlife also making a new home in the area include smooth & palmate newts, several species of damselflies & dragonflies, butterflies & moths and small mammals including hedgehogs.

For more information on the National Trust please go to www.nationaltrust.org

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