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Science
THE LIVING WORLD
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Sunday 06:35-07:00
The Living World is a gentle weekend natural history programme, presented by Lionel Kelleway, which aims to broadcast the best, most intimate encounters with British wildlife.
nhuradio@bbc.co.uk
LISTEN AGAINListen 25min
Listen to 02 July
PRESENTER
LIONEL KELLEWAY
Lionel Kelleway
PROGRAMME DETAILS
Sunday 02 July 2006
Chris Watson recording Tree Sparrows at the Blacktoft Sands RSBP reserve
Chris Watson recording Tree Sparrows at the Blacktoft Sands RSBP Reserve

CORN BUNTINGS AND TREE SPARROWS

Lionel Kelleway goes in search of two species of birds whose populations have declined dramatically nation-wide, but are doing well in and around the RSPB reserve at Blacktoft Sands near Goole.

Joining Lionel on his quest are ornithologist, David Harper from Sussex University and Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve warden, Pete Short.

Their search begins with Corn Buntings. The Corn Bunting is the largest of the buntings; a stout, dumpy, brown bird which flies with a fluttering flight, and its legs characteristically dangling. In Ulster, it's affectionately referred to as the "Corn Dumpling".

At a farm in Luddington, North Lincolnshire, Lionel and his bird-watching friends have no trouble in finding two Corn Buntings, perched on the overhead wires near a field of oil seed rape. It's the sensitive management of the farm for wildlife which explains why these birds do well here.

The farm is a patchwork of habitats - fields of crops, wildflower borders, beetle banks, shrubs, woodland and patches of bare ground, all ensure an easily accessible supply of food and nesting places.

After listening to the wheezy rattle of the Corn Buntng (specially recorded by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson), the three men travel to the RSPB reserve at Blacktoft Sands. Blacktoft Sands, situated on the Humber estuary is England's largest tidal reed bed. Its important for its breeding bearded tits, marsh harriers and bitterns.

Other bird speices found at Blacktoft Sands are the largest concentration of reed warblers and reed buntings in northern England, as well as hundreds of species of rare and specialist insects. The grazing marsh is important for wintering ducks, breeding waders and corn buntings and the willow scrub provides food and nest sites for tree sparrows and whitethroats.

The Tree Sparrow is smaller than a house sparrow and more active, its tail permanently cocked. It has a chestnut brown head and nape (rather than grey) and white cheeks and collar with a contrasting black cheek-spot. They are shyer than house sparrows in the UK.

Like the Corn Bunting, these birds prefer less intensively managed farmland, where there is a good supply of insects. The reed beds at Blacktoft Sands attract insects and bird tables of food. This has helped to sustain the local population which of Tree Sparrow; and like the Corn Buntings, is doing well in this area.

Standing near a feeding table at Blacktoft Sands, with the sound of tree sparrows all about them, Lionel and his friends consider the long-term prospect for Corn Buntings and Tree Sparrows both on the local and national scale.
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