TREE sparrows who make their home at RSPB Bempton Cliffs have found themselves a new champion.
Volunteer Jenna Berry spends hours every week Stepping up for Nature by closely watching the birds, helping build up a detailed picture of their lives, loves and quirky habits.
More than a dozen pairs of tree sparrows live year-round on the nature reserve, many using nestboxes put up especially for them to raise their young – and others deciding that the roof of the visitor centre is an ideal spot for family life.
In autumn and winter, they are joined by many more tree sparrows escaping the harsh weather in Scandinavia.
Jenna said: “Tree sparrows are fascinating little birds – and a far cry from the 200,000 seabirds which many visitors normally associate with Bempton Cliffs.
“They are quite an attraction, especially for visitors from the south coast, who very rarely come across tree sparrows at home.
“As their name suggests, tree sparrows are quite happy living in trees.
“Because we don’t have many big trees at Bempton, we have put up nest boxes near the bird feeding garden – but, for some reason, many of our tree sparrows seem to prefer using the gaps under the tiles of the visitor centre. There’s no accounting for taste!
“While it’s great fun monitoring the Bempton tree sparrows, there’s a serious side to the work as well.
“We need to learn as much as we can about the birds, so we can help them in the future – and that’s where the information collected by me and other volunteers comes in.”
From the late 1970s, through to the early ‘90s, tree sparrow populations saw a massive fall. Thanks to work by conservation organisations and land-owners – and funding through environmental stewardship schemes – things are looking brighter.
“It’s still essential we continue to build on our knowledge of these birds – and Bempton Cliffs is playing a vital role in this work,” Jenna added.
Anyone can Step Up for Nature just like Jenna. From feeding garden birds, gardening with wildlife in mind or volunteering, there are many ways to help. Visit www.rspb.org.uk/stepping up to find out more.