Once common, now rare: ten species that need our help

Barn Owls at Charlecote

Once common wildlife like water voles and cuckoos are now rare and under threat. Our rangers are working with farmers to create nature habitats and help struggling birds, butterflies and wildflowers.

Endangered water voles are returning to Malham Tarn

Water voles – Malham Tarn, Yorkshire Dales 

Once a common sight on rivers, water vole numbers have disappeared from almost 90 per cent of rivers and streams. A hundred water voles were reintroduced on to Malham Tarn, England’s highest freshwater lake, last year.

Cuckoo sitting in a tree

Cuckoo – Murlough National Nature Reserve, Co. Down 

The cuckoo’s distinctive call is said to announce the arrival spring. But numbers in Britain have fallen by more than 60 per cent in 30 years. By leaving patches of scrub and scattered trees on Murlough's dunes, year after year rangers have seen cuckoos return to Northern Ireland’s first nature reserve.

Mountain hare sat in heather

Mountain hares – Kinder Plateau, Peak District 

A decade ago Kinder Scout was one of the most eroded peat bogs in Britain. Working with United Utilities and Natural England, the National Trust has restored 80 hectares of blanket bog - installing 6,000 dams, planting a million moorland plants and reseeding heather. The work has created new habitats for species like Mountain Hares, Red Grouse and Golden Plover. It is also expected to reduce flooding, improve water quality downstream and help store carbon.

Large Blue butterfly

Large blue butterfly - Collard Hill, Somerset 

Britain’s rarest butterfly was reintroduced to Collard Hill in 2000. Over a thousand visitors come to spot the Large Blue on the chalk grassland in early summer. Grazing by Dexter cattle has got the grass short enough for the ants on which the Large Blue caterpillars depend.

Male natterjack toad

Natterjack toad - Formby, Merseyside 

Known for their booming ratchet-like call, Formby’s natterjack toads are known locally as the Birkdale Nightingale. On warm nights in late spring, the toads meet in dune pools to mate. Without these dune habitats these rare toads would be lost forever.

Bluebell flower head

Bluebells – Sheffield Park, East Sussex

Restoring an ancient bluebell woodland has been a 15 year labour of love for Sheffield Park Head Gardener Andy Jesson. Native English bluebells are still common in Britain – but are threatened by habitat destruction and increasing hybridisation with Spanish bluebells.

A salmon jumping out of the river

Atlantic Salmon – Mottisfont Estate, Hampshire 

On the River Test, which runs through our Mottisfont Estate, river keeper Neil Swift cuts back weed in the chalk stream and maintains the lush vegetation of the river banks. The work has benefitted a range of species – and seen numbers of juvenile salmon jump dramatically

Volunteers with a smooth snake on Studland Heath

Smooth snake - Studland Heath, Dorset 

Britain’s rarest snake is now only found on England's south coast – including at Studland Heath, home to all six of Britain’s native reptile species. Rangers are working with a grazier and partners to extend the lowland heathland habitat on Purbeck – helping the smooth snake and other struggling heathland species.

Wicken Fen - Lapwing close up

Lapwing – Gupton Farm, Pembrokeshire  

Flocks of up to 2,000 lapwings can be seen on Gupton Farm in winter. The fields, which lie just behind Freshwater West beach, are grazed by dairy farmer Chris James’ cattle in the winter. The red-listed lapwing feed off grubs from the cows’ dung.

Cirl bunting

Cirl bunting, Devon and Cornwall  

Cirl buntings were once found on farmland right across the south of England. But intensive farm forced the birds to retreat to Devon. In the last 25 years farmers and rangers have worked together to plant crops and replant hedgerows, seeing cirl bunting numbers rocket by almost 1,000 per cent.