A WILDLIFE-LOVER claims the River Colne in Halstead has become a breeding ground for endangered birds after water levels were controversially allowed to fall.

The river, which flows through the town centre, is overgrown with weeds and has been dubbed an eyesore for years, despite once being an attractive part of the town.

But a local bird enthusiast, who recently spotted two at-risk grey wagtails by the Colne, is now asking for the safety of the globally threatened species to be considered if work is carried out to rejuvenate the river.

The grey wagtail – easily identifiable by its yellow, black and grey feathers and thin black beak – is currently on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ ‘red’ at-risk list.

It means urgent action is needed to prevent them becoming extinct after a severe decline in the UK breeding population over the past 25 years.

Lee Thomas, 35, of Colne Valley Close, Halstead, said: “The river may be overgrown but it has become a good breeding place for many birds, including the grey wagtail.

“Of course, I’d like to see the river restored to its former glory and I agree the area does need a bit of a tidy-up, but we would have to take into consideration these red-listed birds before anything is considered.

“All birds are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which states that you can’t remove or interfere with breeding birds, so disrupting these birds would essentially be against the law.

“The council could do with being more aware that these birds are there and try to keep the area as natural to their breeding requirements as possible.”

A voluntary group is negotiating with the Environment Agency and the current owner of Mill House and the antiques centre to improve the look of the river.

But the Environment Agency has insisted it will not re-raise the water level of the river, in order to prevent the risk of flooding.