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Dartford warbler making a come back

PUBLISHED: 11:27 31 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:15 03 March 2010

A BIRD which became extinct in Suffolk more than 60 years ago is making a comeback.

The Dartford warbler - named after the Kent coastal town where it was first seen in 1773 - is recolonising its former stronghold in the Aldeburgh, Leiston and Southwold area.

A BIRD which became extinct in Suffolk more than 60 years ago is making a comeback.

The Dartford warbler – named after the Kent coastal town where it was first seen in 1773 – is recolonising its former stronghold in the Aldeburgh, Leiston and Southwold area.

The bird is thought to have become extinct in Suffolk about the time of the Second World War following loss of its heathland habitat and, finally, the severe winter of 1940.

Seven years ago a pair of the birds were spotted on the Suffolk coast and numbers have steadily increased.

A report just published suggests there were 61 pairs breeding along the coastal strip this year – most of them on the National Trust land at Dunwich Heath but others at Minsmere, Westleton Heath, Aldringham Walks, North Warren, Aldeburgh and the commons at Hollesley, Walberswick and Sutton.

The transformation in the fortune of the Dartford warbler has come about as the result of a revival in the management of heathland along the Suffolk coast.

Conservation groups, local authorities, the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and other landowners have been pooling resources to bring old heathland back into active management and to create new areas.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has contributed £530,000 to the cost of a £730,000 five-year project which has seen traditional grazing by sheep returning to some of the heaths.

The new report has been compiled by RSPB volunteer Peter Etheridge who attributes part of the success of the recolonisation to recent mild winters.

"As during last year, it is noticeable that there are not many unattached males in this year's figures. With the number of sites increasing, presumably there are more females available," he said.

Chris Durdin, RSPB spokesman in East Anglia, said the Dartford warbler was a "real Suffolk speciality" and the news on its recolonisation of the coastal strip was very good news.

He said the bird was likely to be vulnerable to a run of cold winters. "But elatively mild winter weather is increasingly typical – quite possibly due to global climate change," he added.

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