Dartford Warbler (Mike McKavett, RSPB)
Something to be chirpy about
By Laura Joint
Numbers of Dartford warblers on Exmoor have taken off in the last decade - much to the delight of conservationists.
In an amazing turnaround in fortunes, the beautiful Dartford warbler has staged a remarkable recovery on Exmoor.
In 1994, there was just one pair of Dartford warblers on the moor, part of which is in Devon and part in Somerset.
But the latest RSPB survey found 115 pairs on Exmoor.
The figure reflects a national recovery for the species. Following severe winters in the 1960s, there were only 11 recorded pairs in the whole of the UK.
Now, there are an estimated 3,208 pairs - up from 1,890 pairs in 1994.
The recovery is attributed to milder winters, heathland management and land restoration.
The bird can be spotted along the Lynton coast
Exmoor National Park Authority ecologist, Ali Cox, said: "Our local survey work had indicated that Dartford warbler numbers were on the up here and now the national results have confirmed there is cause for celebration.
"Over the last 10 years, environment schemes for farmers have led to better management of the moorlands and provided extensive new habitat for the species."
Exmoor boasts the record for the highest Dartford warblers, with one pair being found at 490 metres - even though the bird is usually a lowland species.
Among the best places to see the birds is the coastal heathland between Combe Martin and Lynton.
As well as the recovery on Exmoor, the RSPB has noted that Dartford warblers are also doing better on Dartmoor.
However, the charity warns against complacency - with climate change a potential threat in the years ahead.
RSPB conservation officer Helen Booker said: "This survey is fantastic news for a very vulnerable bird, particularly because it has moved to higher ground not previously used by Dartford warblers.
"The Dartford warbler is a wonderful species but its vulnerability to the cold and wet, which could still be a problem as our climate alters, means all safeguards possible must be put in place."
last updated: 27/03/2008 at 09:06