Buzzard's refuge to be protected

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A 70-YEAR-OLD forest has become the first man-made woodland in the country to be declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature.

The 1,013-hectare (2,502-acre) site at Great Haldon, near Exeter, Devon, was given the special protection from development because of the refuge it gives to one of Britain's rarest birds, the honey buzzard from West Africa.

There are no more than 15 pairs of this migrant in the country. The pair which has appeared at the site for the last 15 years is the only one in the South-west.

Many other birds of prey, including sparrowhawks, common buzzards, goshawks, kites and osprey are seen in the area, part of a 2,833-hectare (7,000-acre) forest.

About 80 pairs of nightjars, 3 per cent of the UK population, breed in the forest, a commercial woodland managed by part of the Forestry Commission. The area also supports 35 butterfly species.

Robin Khan, the head ranger, said: 'Haldon is a nationally important site because there is such a good mixture of birds of prey.'