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Week old Ring Ouzel chicks
Ring of success!
By George Winn-Darley
The Ring Ouzel is just one rare bird benefiting from conservation efforts on Spaunton Moor. A record number of 12 nests last year produced 34 chicks. George Winn-Darley is the owner of Spaunton Estate...
I am the vice chairman of the Moorland Association. Our members conserve 750,000 acres of the remaining 800,000 acres of globally rare heather moorland in England. We aim to halt its decline and continue to safeguard it for the future, along with a unique variety of threatened birds. The rare Ring Ouzel is just one example.
Spaunton Moor, near Kirkbymoorside, in the North York Moors is managed for wild red grouse which local ornithologist, Ken Hutchinson, is sure has played a large part in the Ring Ouzels' breeding success.
Ken says "The Ring Ouzel is a charismatic little bird; slightly smaller than a blackbird, and the male is very distinctive with black feathers and a white bib. They rely on extensively covered heather moorland and nest on the ground, which makes them vulnerable to hunters like foxes, stoats and weasels."
Male ring ouzel
Fortunately, the number of these predators is controlled on the Spaunton Estate by the grouse moor keepers. Between 1988 and 1999 the breeding population in Britain had plummeted by 58%, placing the bird firmly on the Red List of species of major conservation concern. But 500 hours of painstaking monitoring on the moor last year revealed that the Ring Ouzel population there has remained stable over the last five years, bucking the national trend.
Because the principles of grouse moor management are the same across England's uplands, I am sure the Ring Ouzel will be doing equally well on other Moorland Association members' land.
The birds are partial to rowan berries before they migrate for the winter but the monitoring revealed that the rowan trees in this area are getting old and there is no fresh regeneration. We have now identified some areas of the Estate adjacent to the open moor where tree planting could take place.
However, anyone in the Rosedale area who is thinking of planting a tree in their garden, a new woodland or a shelter belt might like to consider planting a rowan (or mountain ash as they are also known) to help secure the long term future of the Ring Ouzel in the North York Moors.
last updated: 17/02/2009 at 13:19