Rare birds and butterflies will get a £230,000 home upgrade with new pools, security cameras and anti-predator fencing on the Oxfordshire / Buckinghamshire border.
Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is creating bespoke habitat for endangered curlews and other birds at its Gallows Bridge Farm nature reserve.
The charity is also making the site more accessible and erecting new educational display boards to attract increased visitors to the avian haven near Bicester.
The project, which will also benefit other ground-nesting birds such as skylarks, meadow pipits and yellow wagtails, has been made possible by a grant from the FCC Communities Foundation.
Mark Vallance, BBOWT Land Manager, said: “The curlew is one of our most bizarre and beautiful birds: it has this iconic, downward-curved beak, and it makes a famous ‘cur-lee’ cry.
“This bird used to be seen in fields and fens across England, but sadly, over the past hundred years, the number of curlews has plummeted, chiefly because of changes in the way we farm and the significant development of the countryside, and they are now on the conservation red list.
“We are facing a nature and climate crisis in the UK, and we urgently need to take action. That is why BBOWT has pledged to create more nature everywhere across our region which will benefit wildlife, people and climate. This project, generously funded by the FCC Communities Foundation, is a perfect example of that work, and we can’t wait to get started.”
BBOWT has seen curlews nest at Gallows Bridge Farm for years, but their numbers are limited by predators. Now, the Trust will be able to create bespoke habitats to allow the birds to breed in safety.
The team will start by creating 30 new pools called ‘scrapes’, which curlews can bathe and feed in. Overwintering wildfowl such as wigeon, teal, snipe, and golden plover will also benefit from the wetland, along with insects such as dragonflies.
Officers will then cut back or ‘coppice’ huge amounts of hedgerow to create a more open habitat that curlews prefer because there are fewer places for birds of prey to perch and nest. This work will also benefit one of Britain’s rarest butterflies – the brown hairstreak – which will lay its eggs on new shoots as the hedges grow back.
Elsewhere, new anti-predator fences will create enclosed nesting areas where foxes and badgers can’t reach other vulnerable ground-nesting birds. These areas will be perfect for two threatened species – the lapwing – which has iridescent wings and a striking black crest on its head – and the redshank – which has bright orange legs.
Finally, when the nesting season comes around, the Trust plans to work with volunteers from the Upper Thames Waders Group and use night-vision cameras to see how the breeding birds are getting on and exactly what threats they are facing.
FCC Communities Foundation is a not-for-profit business that awards grants for community projects through the Landfill Communities Fund.
Penny Horne, spokesperson for FCC Communities Foundation, said:
“We’re delighted to be supporting the Upper Ray Meadows Wetland Restoration Project and excited about the plans the Trust has in place to improve the nature reserve for wildlife and visitors alike.
“FCC Communities Foundation is always happy to consider grant applications for projects that aim to protect a particular species or habitat and we’re looking forward to this one making a difference to the endangered curlew population very soon.”