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Eastern Moors offers haven for threatened species

Last modified: 04 January 2016

Skylark, North Uist

Skyarks have almost tripled in number on the Eastern Moors

Image: Nigel Blake

A survey of breeding birds at Eastern Moors has revealed the Peak District site is bucking national trends with an increase in a number upland species that are vanishing elsewhere in the UK.

Since the National Trust and the RSPB took over the management of the moors on the edge of Sheffield five years ago, whinchats have more than doubled, increasing from 25 in 2010 to 60 pairs in 2015. This small orange-crested bird, which arrives every summer from Africa to breed in the British uplands, was recently added to the red list of high conservation concern following a 50% decline in the UK since the 1990s. 

Another species faring well at Eastern Moors but struggling nationally is the curlew. This wading bird, with its distinct long curved bill, has risen from 15 pairs in 1990 to 24. In contrast, curlews have almost halved over the past two decades in the UK and, like the whinchat, also recently became listed as a bird of high conservation concern.  

In addition, skylarks have almost tripled at Eastern Moors, rising from 71 to 200 pairs and meadow pipits are more common now at the site than in 2010.

Nature conservationists at the Eastern Moors Partnership believe the success of these birds is due to a gradual reduction in overall grazing and a shift towards the use of cattle on the land. When cattle graze they create a varied habitat, which provides a range of potential nest sites and food sources such as insects.  

Rachel Bennett from the Eastern Moors Partnership said: “The survey results are really important as they tell us that we are managing the land in a way that’s having a positive impact on some of our most threatened wildlife.

“Monitoring these bird species every few years enables us to understand how they respond to changes in management, and how they are faring in the face of national declines.” 

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