Staffordshire National Lottery Winners build nest boxes to attract endangered species

A team of handy National Lottery winners from across Staffordshire have spent the recent winter lockdown building nest boxes for the county’s wild bird population. They hope their efforts will help attract an endangered bird species to a North Staffordshire nature reserve.

Stoke winner Neil Jones, and his partner Julie Kirkam, were joined virtually by Stafford winner Amanda Lewis and Wolverhampton winning couple Denise and Stuart Powell to create a hammer and paintbrush-wielding working party - producing 30 bird boxes which are being used at Cotton Dell Nature Reserve, Oakamoor.

Staff at the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (SWT), who manage the woodland reserve, are hoping the initiative will attract the rare Pied Flycatcher - a striking black and white woodland bird that spends the spring and summer breeding in the UK before migrating to Africa for the winter. It is a characteristic species of mature oak woodlands and nests in small holes in trees and shrubs. Sadly, it has declined to the point of being on the 'red-list' of UK breeding birds, meaning it is of the highest level of conservation priority. Threats include pressures on migratory routes, climate change and loss of suitable nest sites.

Neil Jones, from Stoke-on-Trent, who won £2.4M in 2010, delivered the bird nesting boxes to the site near Alton Towers and met up with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer, Jonathan Groom to help with the positioning of the 30 boxes.

Neil said, “Like so many people not able to travel or see friends and family, for the past twelve months we’ve been enjoying the simpler things in life, including the birdlife that visit our garden, so we were thrilled to be part of this project.”

“Now spring is here we’re hoping that these nest boxes will, in time, provide a safe home to some of our feathered friends while encouraging two-legged human visitors to the reserve.”

Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer Jonathan Groom said, “While the future residents of these wonderful nest boxes won’t know they were constructed by a multimillionaire taskforce, hopefully they will enjoy them.

“The Pied Flycatchers are one of a handful of bird species which readily adapt to using nest boxes instead of natural holes in trees. We hope that by providing nest boxes, we may encourage them to nest, and also allow us to study how successful their nesting attempts are by monitoring the boxes. It would be a nice conservation success story if this were to work.

“Cotton Dell is one of several large, established woodland sites in the area and we would expect it to be a suitable breeding site for Pied Flycatchers. However, despite having occasional singing birds, we have never been able to find any signs of breeding birds at Cotton Dell in recent years.”

Stafford’s Amanda Lewis won £1M in 2016. She said, “It was very therapeutic to calmly paint all the boxes and I can’t wait to see if they help attract new birds to the nature reserve.”

Denise and Stuart Powell from Wolverhampton also scooped £1M one year earlier in 2015. Stuart still works driving a tarmac lorry and in his spare time, he and Denise finished the last ten boxes to complete a set of the thirty. He said, “After a long night shift, it’s been great to spend time with Denise in the garden painting the nesting boxes.”

SWT’s Jonathan Groom commented, “We’re grateful to the lottery winners for their hard work but it’s to players of The National Lottery that we are most grateful. With every ticket they buy, players are helping Wildlife Trusts just like ours give a new lease of life to wildlife and wild places and engage with local communities and individuals. Nationally, since its launch in 1994 more than £400 million in National Lottery funding has helped support 46 Wildlife Trusts deliver wildlife and conservation projects across all four Nations.”

Nest box building is the latest volunteering project big National Lottery winners have been involved with. Since the start of the pandemic, the previous winners have pooled their resources to create fresh vegetable planter boxes for schools and NHS workers, as well as knitting twiddlemuffs for people with dementia, making small garments for premature babies and creating Christmas angels for local charities.

Thanks to National Lottery players, over £1BN is being used by charities and organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, which includes over £600M in funding support from the National Lottery Community Fund which is being used to help groups best placed to support people and communities through the crisis.