Dorset

Dorset's Upton Heath restored for rare reptiles and birds

Smooth snake
Image caption The site is home to rare sand lizards and smooth snakes

Rare reptiles and birds are set to benefit from the clearance of invasive scrub at heathland in Dorset.

Upton Heath nature reserve, in Poole, is home to all six British species of reptiles, including rare sand lizards and smooth snakes.

The 506-acre (205-hectare) site's rare birds include Dartford warblers, stonechats and nightjars.

Dorset Wildlife Trust is clearing birch and pine tree saplings from the reserve in order to maintain the heathland.

Heathlands are supposed to have a "low density" of trees, according to the trust, which manages the site.

Image caption A third of the heath was destroyed by a fire in June 2011

"We want to make it clear that established trees are not being cut down and the site will not look any different as a result of the clearance," said Nicky Hoar, communications officer for the trust.

"The trees also provide important habitats and nests of hobby falcons have been found in some of the mature trees."

Two British white cattle and three Shetland cattle have also been taken on to Upton Heath in recent months to help restore the heathland, with three more British whites expected to arrive this winter.

A third of Upton Heath, which is also home to common lizards, slow worms, grass snakes and adders, was devastated by a fire in June last year.

It was Dorset's largest heath fire for 35 years and destroyed nesting habitats of Dartford warblers and nightjars.

The trust said a full recovery of the land could take 10 years, while the wildlife may not recover for a further 15.

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