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The Gower Tree Sparrow Project

Newsletter Number 1, Autumn 2007

THE GOWER TREE SPARROW PROJECT


The Gower Tree Sparrow Project (GTSP) was established at the end of 2006. The GTSPs main aim is, with the help of local landowners and managers, to aid the conservation of Gowers own tree sparrows - a species of high conservation concern (see below). Now with its first full year drawing to a close, we thought it was a good time to update everyone involved and say Thank You! for all your help. Our special thanks goes to all the farmers and other landowners that have allowed us access to their land, and continue to be of a great support.

WHY TREE SPARROWS?


Tree sparrows used to be a fairly common farmland bird, but the species has declined in Britain by around 97% since the 1970s. The main reasons seem to be a loss of insects (fed to the chicks), and a decline in winter seeds and the number of nest sites in old trees. There are now a number of projects across Britain trying to conserve the remaining populations of tree sparrows. One of the most successful is the Carmarthenshire Tree Sparrow Project, based in the Tywi Valley. Tree sparrow used to be quite common in western Gower, and still get seen occasionally, so we know they are here somewhere. However, until this year, tree sparrow had not be confirmed breeding on Gower for fifteen years.

THE PROJECT SO FAR


In order to effectively target our efforts, and before any field worked started, it was important to find out where the birds had been historically found on Gower. Four key sites were selected where tree sparrow had been recorded in the last 20 years, were selected: Weobley Castle, Burry, Newton Farm and Kimley Moor Farm. These four sites formed the nucleus of the GTSP and nest boxes were put up in earnest in the autumn of 2006. Approximately 60 nest boxes were placed at these key locations and our thanks go to the Environment Department of the City and County of Swansea for supplying the GTSP with the materials to build these.

One of over 40 nest boxes being put up by a GTSPs Andrew Lucas

A lthough notree sparrowwere reared in boxes, plenty of great tits, (above) were!

Unfortunately no tree sparrow used the boxes this summer, although we do seem to have been very successful in boosting the Gower blue and great tit populations!

However, we were very pleased to discover that trees sparrows were still breeding on western Gower, in old buildings at Newton Farm. This is the first confirmed breeding for the species on Gower since 1992, coincidentally also at Newton Farm.

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE!

Tree sparrow(left) are more easily confused with male house sparrow Tree sparrow (left) are most easily confused with male house
Newton farm where tree sparrowwere found

At least two, possibly three, pairs were breeding in holes in the buildings of the old farm, but although the adults were frequently seen carrying food, the nests were well hidden and we were unable to find them to check on the progress of Gowers next generation of tree sparrow. Hopefully the tree sparrows will get the nest box habit in 2008 and make things a lot easier!

The tree sparrow is sometimes confused with the male of its more familiar cousin, the house sparrow. However, with a little know how the two species are easy to separate. The tree sparrow has a completely chestnut head, white cheeks and collar, and a conspicuous black cheek spot. On the other hand, male house sparrows have a grey crown, with dusky grey cheeks. Male house sparrows also lack the black cheek spot of the tree sparrow.

FEED THE BIRDS!


A feeding station has been set up at Newton farm, with the generous support of the Environment Department of the City and County of Swansea. Within a few of hours of the colossal feeders being put in place, tree sparrows were seen using them! Up to five tree sparrows have been seen using the feeders on numerous occasions, along with good numbers of other species. We hope to monitor the feeding station over the winter months to see how many tree sparrows may be in the area. Plans are also underway to ring the tree sparrows using the feeders to follow their progress and movements, and help estimate the number of birds using the feeding station.

AND FINALLY Thank you to everyone who has helped with the first year of the Gower Tree Sparrow Project. If you want any further information, or have seen tree sparrows anywhere in Gower, please contact us: Andrew Lucas C/o CCW Llys Tawe Kings Road Swansea SA1 9FG Or email a.lucas@ccw.gov.uk

POSTER CAMPGAIN
Several posters will be put up around Gower to encourage people to report any sightings. If you know of any good spots for posters, then please let us know!