Ground nesting birds
The New Forest is a great place for all sorts of birds, many of which nest on the ground, especially those that breed in the open heathland and mires.
Wading birds include the curlew, redshank, snipe and lapwing, each of which is becoming rare in the south of England. Other specialties are the woodlark, nightjar and Dartford warbler, again the New Forest is an important stronghold for these unusual birds.
The main danger is that these birds can be frightened away from their nests in spring, leaving eggs or young vulnerable to the cold, or to predators such as crows. Obviously the disturbance could be quite ‘natural’ like a passing fox – but people straying from the main tracks, with or without dogs, are an additional risk.
Activities designed to address the issue include:
- Signs at the best breeding sites, which are put out each year by Forestry Commission staff
- The 'Date with Nature' project at the Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst where one of the key themes is ground nesting birds
- A Dog Walking Code, compiled with dog owners as well as wildlife enthusiasts, together with a range of ways to promote it
- Face to face conversation with walkers, asking them to stick to the main tracks and to keep their dogs close by between March and the end of July.