FARMERS in Cumbria have played a part in a conservation project to help Britain’s struggling population of tree sparrows, which have suffered a huge decline in recent years.

Operation Tree Sparrow was set up by the RSPB to give a helping hand to the farmland bird species, whose UK population has fallen by more than 90 per cent over the past four decades.

Over the life of the project, which ended last year, dedicated volunteers erected over 1,400 nestboxes and hundreds of feeding stations on 85 farms in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside. As a result, some of the farms recorded large numbers of tree sparrows, with one farm in Cumbria counting106 birds.

Eden farmer Richard Fisher, of Southwaite, said: “I’ve noticed increases in tree sparrows in areas around the nestboxes and areas of wild bird cover, which are a part of my Entry Level Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship schemes.

“These schemes are beneficial to birds and other wildlife and provide good financial incentives for farmers as well.”