Welcome Home appeal

Cuckoo at DWT Emsworthy Mire, by Gray ClementsCuckoo at DWT Emsworthy Mire, by Gray Clements

Devon's breeding migrant birds are spending the winter in Africa. Many species have suffered severe declines and now rely on nature reserves for nesting and feeding their young. Please help to ensure DWT reserves can benefit migrant birds by giving to this appeal.

The autumn migration of birds such as redstart, pied flycatcher and nightjar is well under way. But already we're thinking about how we can welcome our breeding migrant birds back to DWT nature reserves next spring.

Some of our African visitors are still numerous - but many species have dropped in numbers. And dropped dramatically.

  • The number of sites in Devon with cuckoos present was 289% higher just 40 years ago.
  • In December 2015, pied flycatchers were added to the Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, following severe declines in the breeding population.

In decades past there was enough wild space in the Devon countryside for such birds to meet their feeding and breeding needs. 

But changes to the way our countryside is managed - intensive farming, built development and fragmentation of woodlands - mean many birds now depend on nature reserves to provide homes for feeding and raising their young.

Despite struggling in the wider countryside, some of our declining migrant birds are thriving on DWT nature reserves:

  • In 2017, pied flycatchers using nest boxes at our Dunsford reserve in the Teign valley had one of the most successful breeding seasons since records began in 1979, with 130 young birds fledged from 26 broods.
  • Nightjars have increased their range on the southern fringes of Dartmoor, with improved heathland management seeing the return of these fascinating birds to our Chudleigh Knighton Heath nature reserve.
  • DWT Emsworthy Mire nature reserve, near Hay Tor, remains one of the best places in Devon to see and hear cuckoos.
  • This year redstarts were found nesting in the newly restored dry stone walls at our Bellever Moor and Meadows reserve on Dartmoor.

Opportunities for our migrant birds to nest and feed hungry chicks have disappeared from much of our ever-tidier countryside. So we have to create and maintain many varied niches on DWT nature reserves, to enable our summer visitors to find excellent homes.

But to ensure varied habitats in relatively small areas of land takes a lot of work. We need to invest significant funds - in staff and contractors’ time, tools and equipment, training for volunteers, fencing, caring for grazing animals and more - if we are to maximise our nature reserves’ value to Devon’s migrant breeding birds.

  • Your donation will support woodland and grassland management to increase the supply of insects for birds such as redstart and pied flycatcher (and cuckoo chicks) to feed on.
  • Your donation will help DWT to maintain the niches willow warblers need on our nature reserves – scrub, woodland rides and bushy open moorland.
  • Your donation will support essential fencing, water supplies and welfare of grazing animals to manage heathlands for nightjars.

All donations to our Welcome home appeal will go towards essential management work on a number of DWT nature reserves to benefit migrant birds - including cuckoo, nightjar, willow warbler, redstart and pied flycatcher - before they return to breed in spring. Make a donation securely today

Will you 'welcome home' these special birds with a donation today? 

By supporting this appeal, you can help these birds thrive on DWT nature reserves – and for thousands of miles beyond the Devon horizon. 

Bring back the sounds of spring by listening to this recording of willow warbler song on YouTube (external link)