Built 50 bird boxes to create winter feeding stations

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Prison inmates helping to save one of the country’s most iconic birds from extinction is the last thing most people would expect.

But a group of cons from HMP Rochester have done exactly that.

From behind bars, the offenders built from scratch 50 new tree sparrow nest boxes which will help in ensuring the future of the threatened birds.

The project was launched by the RSPB in the hope it will bring the species back from the brink of extinction following a 97 per cent decline in numbers since the 1960s.

The staggering drop is blamed on changes to the countryside, its agriculture and people’s homes, limiting the sparrows’ opportunity to feed on seeds through the winter, find food for their chicks or find nesting holes.

But the new boxes, due to be placed in Romney Marsh and the Dungeness Peninsula, are expected to turn the birds’ fortune around.

Gardens parties supervisor from HMP Rochester Glen Routledge said the job was taken on by the prison to give offenders a purposeful activity and enable them to put something back into society.

He added: “Offenders also gained valuable experience in producing these boxes and many have shown a keen interest in the plight of the tree sparrows for which the boxes are intended.

“They are looking forward to the next project and working closely with the RSPB in the future.”

Assistant warden at RSPB Dungeness Craig Edwards said five winter feeding stations will be created using 10 of the new boxes for each one.

“These will be monitored by a group of trained volunteers to assess how many birds are using them, and how many choose the boxes as a new home next spring,” he said.

Projects such as the Romney Marsh Farmland Bird Project allow prisoners to give something back to society, while also teaching them new skills which help them on the outside following their release.

And in this case for the tree sparrows it could mean the difference between life and death.

With the new boxes, Kent will be the last stronghold for the species which was once a common site around rural England.

The next stage of the project is to work with farmers to help them cater for the sparrows by putting in place the necessary conservation measures.

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