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Bitterns booming in UK quarries

Rare bird making a resounding comeback thanks in large part to the UK minerals industry

QUARRIES are providing a safe haven for rare bitterns to nest and breed, helping them to make a resounding comeback in this country.

Making use of the bird’s distinctive ‘booming’ call, conservationists have found that 2011 has proved to be a bumper year for this species, which was once extinct in the UK.

For the first time since 1911, more than 100 birds have been found to be nesting in 26 sites throughout England, 15 of them at working or former quarries.

This represents a vast improvement on the overall count of just 11 birds recorded in 1996, and the minerals industry has had an important role to play in ensuring this success.

‘Nature is intrinsically valuable and studies demonstrate it is fundamentally important to our well-being and our economy, but we are losing it at an alarming rate,’ commented Darren Moorcroft, head of species and habitats conservation at the RSPB. ‘The mineral products industry is uniquely positioned to step up and help turn this around.

‘It is fantastic news that all the effort that has been put into restoring quarry sites around the country has provided a home for this rare and unique bird. Catching a glimpse of a bittern as it takes off from a reed bed, and hearing its amazing booming call are the real rewards for this vital work.’

Nigel Jackson, chief executive of the Mineral Products Association, added: ‘Protecting and enhancing the UK’s biodiversity is finally being recognized as one of the industry’s hidden benefits.

‘As a critical part of the UK’s manufacturing base, we are not only essential to construction, to the economy and to growth, but are also uniquely placed to make a nationally significant contribution to halting the decline in the UK’s biodiversity.

‘Our members already manage or control an area of land that adds up in size to a small national park. Given the right recognition and support, we can achieve a great deal more yet.’

In 2006, research conducted by Nature After Minerals – a partnership between the RSPB and Natural England, with support from the minerals industry, which aims to encourage the effective and sustainable restoration of quarries – concluded that nine out of the 11 priority wildlife habitats listed in the Government’s former UK Biodiversity Action Plan could be delivered on minerals sites alone.

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