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Increase in nightjar numbers returning to Chase scrubland.

Byline: Sarah Probert

One of Britain's rarest birds is making a comeback in the Midlands.

The nightjar has soared in numbers on Cannock Chase, in Staffordshire, due to the protection of the habitat of the secretive bird.

A survey carried out by the West Midlands Bird Club has revealed that numbers of the bird has increased from 38 to 55 pairs since 1997.

A spokesman for Staffordshire County Council said the rotational felling of forest plantations and scrub and woodland clearance on the chase heaths has encouraged the nightjars back to the area.

Work on the heathland is currently under way after the council was awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery and English Nature to carry out a five-year restoration of rare heathland habitats.

Sue Sheppard, Cannock Chase lottery project manager, said: 'It is very encouraging to see these beautiful and rare birds on the increase once again. One of our aims in managing the heathland is to encourage a return of scarce wildlife to the Chase heaths.'

But the West Midland Bird Club warn that disturbance to nest sites from dogs running through the undergrowth could halt any increase in the ground-nesting bird's population.

Jim Muir, leader of cultural and recreational services at the council, said: 'We have to rely on the good will of people using the chase to help up protect our local heritage, so that the future generations can live to reap the benefits of our communal efforts.'

The British Trust for Ornithology, which has declared National Nest Box Week from February 14-21, is encouraging house and flat owners with gardens to put up boxes.

The once-common house sparrow is now in serious decline and other species, such as thrushes, are struggling through loss of habitat and insect food supplies.

But the trust believes everyone can help as spring approaches.

Chris Mead, originator of the National Nest Box Week concept, said: 'No garden is really complete without some next boxes.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 12, 2001
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