October 2017

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Published on 26 October 2017

New RSPB Nature Reserve in Teignbridge helps protect rare cirl bunting

The RSPB has bought new pieces of land between Teignmouth and Bishopsteignton as part of the nature charity’s long term work to secure the future of the nationally rare cirl bunting.

The purchase of two sites totalling 40ha at Ashill is funded by building developers in Teignbridge as compensation for the impact of forthcoming development on cirl buntings.  The funding is secured by Teignbridge District Council through Section 106 Agreements and used to repay RSPB’s purchase.

Cath Jeffs, RSPB Cirl Bunting Project Manager, said:

“We’ve been interested in buying land for cirl buntings in this part of Teignbridge for many years. We have already taken on some of the land at Ashill, but this new 40ha really helps consolidate our land holding. The support of Teignbridge District Council, and its willingness to help this bird has been amazing.”

The cirl bunting, a small sparrow sized farmland bird, almost became extinct in the UK in the late 1980s. However, hard work by conservationists and farmers has reversed the fortunes of this much loved bird. A survey last year showed the population had passed 1,000 breeding pairs for the first time in 25 years, a dramatic increase from just 118 pairs in 1989.

The RSPB will manage the new site as low intensity mixed farmland that will include cattle grazing and c.1,500m of hedge restoration using traditional methods. The charity will also be growing a spring barley and wildlife mix to provide winter food for the birds in the colder months.

Cath Jeffs added:

“Our main aim at Ashill is to manage the land sympathetically, not just for cirl buntings, but for all wildlife. At our Labrador Bay Nature Reserve, near Shaldon, we have been hugely successful in making the coastal land wildlife rich through a variety of wildlife friendly farming methods. We really want to demonstrate what is possible.”

Cllr Clemens, Executive Member for Housing and Planning, Teignbridge District Council, said:

“As a farmer myself and on behalf of Teignbridge, we’re delighted this farmland has been secured to protect these birds for the future.  Teignbridge has 33% of the national population of cirl buntings, so it’s crucial we get this right.

“This site is a really important example of how we’re delivering our Local Plan, providing much needed homes for local people, at the same time protecting and providing for wildlife.

“In addition, Teignbridge’s Planning Committee on Tuesday [24 Oct] signed up to a Wildlife and Development Guidance Note, developed in partnership with Devon County Council and RSPB. It sets a benchmark for others to follow in managing cirl bunting through the planning process.

“Teignbridge and partners are leading the way, setting best practice in caring for wildlife ahead of development, at the same time balancing the needs of nature and people.“

Public access to Ashill is limited, and there are no on-site facilities for visitors.