A RARE bird has been spotted breeding at Whixall Moss for the first time in more than 25 years.

Snipe have been found breeding on Whixall Moss, part of Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve, in the Marches Mosses near Wrexham, for the first time since 1995.

The UK population of snipe has undergone a big decline in the last 25 years, with very steep declines in lowland wet grassland.

The RSPB records it as an Amber List species, which means it is endangered and of international importance.

Snipe can be found in various types of wet marshy settings including bogs.

They avoid settling in areas with dense vegetation, preferring marshy areas with patchy cover to let them hide from predators.

Following recent restoration works by the LIFE programme funded Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project, a partnership project between Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, and Shropshire Wildlife Trust, this makes the Marches Mosses the ideal habitat for them.

Leo Smith, editor of the recently published Birds of Shropshire, and organiser of the county-wide Breeding Snipe survey said it was a welcome return for the snipe.

"These 2017-19 records are the first with evidence of breeding snipe from Whixall Moss since 1995," said Leo.

"We only found evidence of 10 breeding pairs in the whole of Shropshire in 2019, so finding them again at Whixall is very welcome.

"All the records have come from three areas where small embankments have been built to hold the water close to the surface as part of the BogLIFE restoration project.

"This has caused the creation of shallow pools, ideal snipe habitat.

"If these records herald a re-colonisation of the Mosses by breeding snipe, this will be a great achievement for the National Nature Reserve and an excellent result for the BogLIFE Project."

Snipe are ground nesting birds, like the curlew and lapwing which also breed on the Mosses and can be threatened by disturbance.

Natural England reserve manager Steve Dobbin added: "We ask dog walkers to keep their pets on a lead in the areas where birds are nesting, so it was heartening that dog walkers reported some of the first evidence of the return of these endangered birds."