Pensthorpe wildlife reserve counts growth in endangered species

Corncrake Image copyright Pensthorpe
Image caption New bloodlines of the endangered corncrake have been introduced to Pensthorpe's breeding programme

Birds and animals, including some of the UK's most endangered species, have increased by more than 100 at a Norfolk wildlife reserve in the past year.

The annual count at Pensthorpe, near Fakenham, has revealed 778 birds in total, made up of 58 species, including red-listed turtle doves and corncrakes.

Wardens on the 660-acre reserve, which hosted the BBC's Springwatch, can spend several days completing the stock take.

A spokeswoman said "wild creatures... don't stop and wait to be counted".

The wardens are required to count all the captive bred birds and mammals within the aviaries and lakes on the site, but the job is made harder as many of the species are small and move quickly.

Chrissie Kelley, head of species management at Pensthorpe, said: "Sometimes it can take an hour or two trying to find one elusive bird that is hiding away in the reeds.

"These are wild creatures so they don't stop and wait to be counted. This makes the task quite a challenging one.

"It's also a great time to see the different species of birds, particularly the colourful males, whose plumage is at its most stunning in preparation for spring."

Image copyright Pensthorpe
Image caption Early signs are for a good litter of red squirrel kittens later in the year

The reserve is also a centre for the East Anglia Red Squirrel Breeding Programme, which includes Banham Zoo and Kelling Heath, in north Norfolk, as part of a co-ordinated effort to reinforce the species' declining population.

"We introduced a new male to our female last year and to be honest, she wasn't that keen," said Ms Kelley.

"But now they look to be getting on OK and I've seen them doing their courtship chasing so I'm hoping they'll produce kittens."

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