Monday, 18 July 2011

£30,000 grant to help save Dartmoor's Ring ouzels

Ring ouzel may become extinct in southern England

July 2011: The RSPB has teamed up with environmental funder SITA Trust and Dartmoor National Park Authority in an attempt to stem the decline of the ring ouzel in Dartmoor.

Related to, and closely resembling blackbirds, ring ouzels are birds of upland areas. Male ring ouzels are particularly distinctive with their black plumage with a pale wing panel and striking white breast band.

A remnant population is hanging on
This project is the vital first stage in preventing the potential extinction of ring ouzel in southern England. This red listed species has declined by 63 per cent since 1979 on Dartmoor, a former stronghold for this beautiful bird. Here this project will focus on a remnant population that is hanging on.

Thanks to a grant of more than £30,000, conservationists and volunteers will survey the fragile Dartmoor population over two years during the breeding season to research reasons for decline and determine what will be required to sustain future populations.

Jools Granville of SITA Trust said: ‘The rate of decline has been so steep that it was vital that the RSPB undertakes this work immediately on Dartmoor while there is still a breeding population of ring ouzels so that they may implement emergency measures to protect the population.

Ring ouzel's song is the 'soundtrack of remote and secret spaces'
‘The loss of breeding birds over the past decade on Exmoor and the Long Mynd in Shropshire is testament to the urgency of this work.'

The survey work is being co-ordinated for the RSPB by Dartmoor resident and TV naturalist Nick Baker.

Nick, who has long had a passion for ring ouzels said: ‘For me this bird has a special place. There is nothing more poignant than its plaintive tri-syllabic song, it is the soundtrack of the remote and secret spaces.

‘Listening to those notes being snatched by the wind on a blustery tor or rugged and rocky valley in spring time encapsulates for me the essence of what is so special about Dartmoor National Park.

‘If the decline continues and this population goes the way of the birds on Exmoor - that have not bred there since 2002 - then for me we've lost one of the fundamental elements of the moors, without the ring ouzel we lose the beating heart of the Dartmoor.‘

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