PRISONERS have contributed to a Cumbrian wildlife project which aims to protect a rare species of bird that is in decline.

More than 50 bird boxes have been given to north Cumbrian wildlife consultant and author John Miles to help his Pied Flycatcher project, something he has been working on since 1982.

They have been installed across north Cumbria in a bid to encourage nesting.

When John first started work on this species he could only find six pairs in the area.

With nest boxes he soon had 98 breeding birds in 1989. But this fell away with some disastrous summers and the decline of the nest boxes.

He is presently working with only 10 breeding females and with the help of the prisoners who made the boxes hopes to increase the population once again.

John, of Castle Carrock, near Brampton, said ‘’The Pied Flycatcher needs natural holes to nest in and as so many trees are not mature enough to produce natural holes so nest boxes help boost the population. I am so glad of the help from the Durham Prisoners and their workshop supervisors especially Paul and hopefully 2019 will show an increase in this rare species.”

He explained how Pied Flycatcher have, on average, decreased in population by 25 per cent within the last 25 years.

“It has ceased to breed in several parts of its former range within Britain preferring mature Oak woodland but with nest boxes has been shown to nest in any type of woodland often along river sides,” John continued.

For their help John has already sent pictures to the prison of birds likely to use nest boxes to brighten up their workplace but future videos of the birds using the new boxes will hopefully help the prisoners to understand the need for these boxes.

Paul McGrath, a specialist instructor in woodwork, at HMP Durham explained that prisoners gain experience skills and experience the workshop which can help them back into employment.

Their products, which also include garden furniture and bird feeders, are usually sold to friends and family but 50 were given to John free of charge to help his efforts of riving the species’ numbers.