‘Bed and breakfast’ for at-risk sparrows

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RARE sparrows are being given “a bed as well as breakfast” thanks to a generous couple.

Robin and Sue Laycock have provided 30 hand-made nest boxes to kick-start a project to encourage tree sparrows to breed at Saltholme Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Hartlepool.

Volunteers Adam Murphy (left) and Adam Jones

Volunteers Adam Murphy (left) and Adam Jones

The nest boxes have been put up along a row of trees in an area now known as Tree Sparrow Town.

The couple decided to help out after three of the birds, which have suffered declining numbers, appeared at the Tees Road reserve last October.

Ben Calvert, who works at Saltholme, said: “The tree sparrows have been making the most of the food that we put out at our bird feeding areas, but now, thanks to Robin and Sue’s massive step, we can offer the birds a bed as well as breakfast.

“Each one of the boxes is numbered so we’ll be able to follow the fortunes of each family. It’s going to be our very own soap opera.

“And, because Tree Sparrow Town is on the approaches to the visitor centre, people will be able to see for themselves the comings and goings of these delightful birds.”

Robin, a skilled woodworker from Darlington, has also created a luxury very nest box from recycled teak and featuring a hand-carved RSPB logo.

It takes pride of place on a sycamore tree outside the main entrance to the visitor centre.

Tree sparrow populations fell by more than 90 per cent between 1970 and the early 1990s, putting them on the RSPB’s red list of conservation concern.

Since 2008, the RSPB has recorded signs of increasing numbers of tree sparrows across the UK, thanks to work by volunteers, conservation organisations and land-owners, along with funding through environmental stewardship schemes.

The Laycocks plan to provide a further 30 boxes for a neighbouring part of the site to help expand the colony over the coming years.