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Harnessing horses to help save upland birds

This is an archived press release

Tuesday 9 January 2007

9 January 2007

Harnessing horses to help save upland birds

Horse-owners are being urged to help save some of the Peak District’s most distinctive birds.

Horse pastures can be ideal habitats for upland species which have suffered marked declines in recent years – especially lapwings, but also curlews, twites and snipe.

These birds depend on the right kind of grassland management, and a new leaflet from the Peak Birds Project explains how horse-owners can help.

Peak Birds Project officer Catherine Gray explained, “So far in the project, we have aimed our advice at farmers and we haven’t had much contact with horse-owners. Some of the best lapwing sites in the Peak District are on horse pastures, so we are very keen to work with people who keep horses or ponies.”

The new leaflet gives practical advice on how horse-owners can attract birds to their land. This includes keeping pastures short but not overgrazed, and making hay in traditionally-managed meadows.

“Lapwings like short grass with longer tussocks to hide in and wet areas for feeding,” said Catherine. “Curlews nest in haymeadows and it is important to cut the hay after mid-July to avoid destroying nests or chicks. Haymeadows that are rich in wildflowers are ideal feeding areas for the twite, a small finch which is now very rare in the Peak District. These herb-rich meadows also look attractive and provide the best kind of hay for horses, because the grass isn’t too rich.”

The Peak Birds Project was set up in 2001 to halt the decline of three bird species: lapwings, curlews and twites in the Peak District. It is a partnership between the Peak District National Park Authority and the RSPB, and offers free advice to farmers and landowners about how to help birds, and about grants such as the Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

The leaflet, “Managing Horse Pastures for Birds in the Peak District,” is being sent to riding stables, horse and pony clubs and individuals.

For a free copy, or for more information about the Peak Birds Project, contact Catherine Gray at the Peak District National Park Authority on 01629 816247. You can also download the leaflet from: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/horsemanagement_tcm5-137278.pdf

This is an archived press release

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