Shrike 'could recolonise' UK after Dartmoor breeding
A rare bird that has bred for the second year on Dartmoor could start to recolonise the UK, conservationists have said.
Last year red-backed shrikes bred for the first time on the moor since 1970. Two pairs have raised seven birds at an undisclosed location this year.
A 24-hour watch was put in place by conservationists to guard the birds against egg collectors and disturbance.
The RSPB said the repeat breeding indicated a possible recolonisation.
Kevin Rylands, RSPB farmland conservation adviser, said: "We are already planning for 2012 to ensure that any nesting attempts next year are fully protected, as well as making sure there is enough suitable habitat for them.
"The success is testament to the effort of more than 30 volunteers and seven partner organisations working together."
The team watched the sites around the clock throughout the breeding season.
Colin Marker, one of the volunteers, said "Having a successful outcome makes all the hours of watching, patrolling and being eaten alive by midges worthwhile."
The species used to be found across southern England in hay meadows, hedges, scrub and heath.
The UK population declined in the 1930s and the shrike was finally lost as a breeding species in the 1990s.