Nature reserve wildlife on the Dee Estuary in danger after arson attack

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Leader Live)

FIREFIGHTERS were called out to tackle a blaze on the RSPB Dee Estuary nature reserve which damaged an important area for nesting birds and wildlife.

The fire was quickly brought under control and caused less damage than a similar incident in 2013, which destroyed a large swathe of Neston reedbed and spread to Parkgate Marsh.

The latest incident has raised repeated safety concerns from RSPB staff as arson attacks on the site have been an ongoing problem for a number of years.

As a result the RSPB operates a warden scheme with volunteers patrolling the area, on the lookout for any inappropriate or potentially damaging behaviour.

Colin Wells, site manager at RSPB Dee Estuary Nature Reserve, said: “This is a stark reminder of how vulnerable the reedbed and its surrounds are at this time of year. The last few weeks have been relatively fine and combined with periods of strong winds, the conditions on the marsh have become brittle and dry, which meant the fire would have started easily.

“We have a team of volunteers who warden the area in the evenings to try and discourage people from starting fires, which has successfully prevented any for a few years. It was the fast action of one of these volunteers on Saturday evening to promptly raise the alarm and allow the fire to be extinguished quickly before too much damage was done.”

The RSPB is concerned about the damaging impact the blaze may have had on local wildlife living in the affected site, particularly harvest mice and nesting birds.

Colin added: “The harvest mice have lost their habitat and many of them may have been injured or killed.

“The area is an important breeding ground for birds such as reed buntings and water rails. They have lost their nesting areas. It’s devastating as we work so hard to create and maintain this site for wildlife and people to enjoy.

“We would benefit from having more volunteer wardens to help keep an eye on the reedbed area in spring, so if any local residents are keen to help protect this special wildlife habitat, get in touch with us at Burton Mere Wetlands.”

Police are treating the fire as a potential arson case. Anyone with information is asked to call Ellesmere Port and Neston Neighbourhood Policing Team on 0845 458 6373.

To enquire about the volunteer warden opportunity, email deeestuary@rspb.org.uk or call on 0151 336 4932.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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