One of the main projects undertaken by the Marlborough Downs Nature Improvement Area (MDNIA) has been to revive the downs’ much depleted tree sparrow population. There is now statisticval proof that it is succeeding – and having an impact across the county.
In 2014 the number of tree Sparrows in Wiltshire has increased with a total of 170 nesting pairs raising 1542 nestlings that fledged. That is an increase on 2013 when 890 fledged from 125 pairs.
The MDNIA recorded 76 pairs within its boundary producing 623 fledglings (510 fledged from 62 pairs in 2013.) The tree sparrow can be distinguished from the house sparrow by the black patch on each of the birds’ pure white cheeks.
Working with the MDNIA’s farmers, 1,000 nest boxes have been put up across 300 square miles, creating tree sparrow villages. Hedges have been planted that will give the birds appropriate cover. And a winter feeding programme has been helping the birds through the cold and wet season.
Since 1999 about 14,000 tree sparrows have been ringed in the Marlborough Downs area. Matt Prior, who manages the MDNIA tree sparrow project explains:
“Last winter’s feeding has definitely helped the birds survive. A great breeding season last spring combined with us putting out large quantities of food again this winter means we are very excited about the prospects for Tree Sparrows in the Marlborough area next year”.
The MDNIA covers 10,370 hectares (25,625 acres) of chalk downland to the south of Swindon, within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
For more information visit the MDNIA website.