Twite saved by concrete company

Twite line up on a fence at Dove Holes recently. Photo: CEMEX.
Twite line up on a fence at Dove Holes recently. Photo: CEMEX.
Working in partnership with the RSPB, cement and concrete company CEMEX is helping the scarce finch to make a comeback in Derbyshire.

The CEMEX team at Dove Holes quarry, Derbyshire, is helping the species by creating a flower-rich meadow to provides the seeds it eats such as sorrel. Twite is one of only two British birds that feed their young entirely on seed, so an abundant supply close to their nests is vital.

The 5-ha field is right next to the Twites’ breeding area, and has just been planted with a special seed mix to encourage a flower-rich meadow. Next spring it will provide the vital seeds needed by the chicks.

Twite has the most restricted distribution of any English breeding bird, and the majority of the population is centred on the South Pennine moorlands near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, but there is a tiny population that nests at the Derbyshire quarry.

The small finches nest in fissures in the quarry face. The species declined rapidly during the last century as traditional late-cut hay meadows were replaced by rye grass silage fields, which provide no food for Twite. Today, it is thought that there are fewer than 100 breeding pairs left in England, though Scotland has a fairly healthy population.

George Hudson, a keen local birder who has been watching the birds on the site for many years, commented: “Despite the fact that they are tough little birds, we are in a grim position throughout the country. In 2008 there were around 50 Twite in this area, but they have hung on in the quarry and through the summer we have seen around 10 or 11, but no young. They can recover from this very small number and the new meadow will make all the difference, giving them a fighting chance.”

Tim Melling, RSPB Conservation Officer said “Twite used to be common and widespread throughout the Peak District but now this tiny population is all that remains. If we lose these birds we might never get them back, but if we help them they may provide a nucleus to regain [the species'] former status in the Peaks. Creating this perfect meadow right next to their nesting grounds should certainly help. ”