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Giving snipe a home in Oxfordshire

Last modified: 04 October 2013

Snipe feeding

Image: Nigel Blake

Thanks to a five year grant of £109,399 from WREN, RSPB Otmoor nature reserve in the heart of Oxfordshire, is providing a home for the elusive snipe.

 

This five year funding programme from WREN aims to restore, conserve and revive the UK’s natural habitats and protect endangered species. 

 

WREN is a not-for-profit business that awards grants generated by landfill tax through sites owned by FCC Environment, to community, environmental and heritage projects countrywide.

 

With their incredibly long bills, snipe are one of the most recognizable birds in the UK. Actually seeing one though can be a different matter, not only are they very well camouflaged, but they have also suffered a 60% decline in breeding numbers since the 1980s.

 

Thanks to the support of WREN, the reserve has been able to carry out important conservation work in order to reverse the woeful decline of these once common birds.

 

Much of the WREN funded conservation work on RSPB Otmoor is focused on improving the structure of the soil to make it more suitable for worms, an important food source for snipe.

Manure sourced from a local farmer will be spread to provide extra nutrients and organic matter for the worms.

 

A substance called gypsum is being spread, which will loosen the soil, allowing more air into it and aiding decomposition of plant material and the availability of more worm food.

 

RSPB Staff at the nature reserve are also using an aerator, which when towed behind a tractor will create slots in the ground allowing air to penetrate, benefitting soil bacteria, fungi and the decomposition process.

 

Joe Harris, Warden at the nature reserve adds: “We are justifiably proud to have snipe breeding on Otmoor and we are delighted to have received this funding from WREN. Otmoor provides an ideal home for these captivating and enigmatic birds, but there is still a lot of work we can do to make it even better for them.

 

“This grant funding will help us do just that and we know that the snipe and also visitors to the reserve will benefit from all the work that WREN has made possible.”

 

Peter Barker, 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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