SEVERAL threatened species of birds and butterflies are being protected from extinction by a conservation project in Bicester.

Volunteers have turned their attentions to land at the military storage and distribution centre MOD Bicester in nearby Arncott after nightingales have been recorded singing at the site.

Volunteers have also discovered eggs from the elusive Brown Hairstreak butterfly whose numbers have seen dramatic declines in recent years.

The Bicester Bird and Butterfly Boon project is a partnership lead by Paul Watts, a volunteer ecologist, with the support of Chiltern Rangers, which works with communities to provide practical habitat management.

For the past five years the Bicester group have been working with the Ministry of Defence to monitor breeding bird populations at the site.

Grundon Waste Management also contributed £5,720 of funding through the Landfill Communities Fund and a troupe of helpers to clear and tidy plants and shrubs at the site.

John Shaw of the Chiltern Rangers said: “The scrub was not being actively managed and there were concerns that without intervention it may no longer be suitable for birds such as nightingales and warblers within the next few years.

"Together with our much-needed volunteers, we have been able to clear dense areas of scrub, making sure there is a variety in age and height, so that breeding birds will continue to thrive.

"We’re absolutely thrilled that one of our volunteers has already recorded nightingales this year and we’re looking forward to an exciting summer of new discoveries."

The site has a significant amount of rough grass and scrub which is ideal for a wide range of breeding birds, including seven species of warblers, among them the chiffchaff, willow warbler, whitethroat, and grasshopper warbler.

It is also home to around four pairs of turtle doves and is one of the last remaining local strongholds for the nightingale.

Grundon head of compliance Toni Robinson said: “We were delighted to contribute towards this project and have the opportunity to work at the site, seeing at first-hand how the money is being spent.

"And of course, success stories such as return of the nightingale make the investment very worthwhile."

A 10-year management strategy plan has been put in place for the site and Mr Shaw said the group hope to bring on more volunteers to the project.

He added: "We would like to hear from people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, who would like to become involved in the project, and also from community organisations, charities, social enterprises, schools, colleges and other partners.

"They can all play key roles and the more support we receive, the more work we can do to protect this very important site."

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