Rare bird recorded at common for first time in a decade

Luke Parkinson

Published Tuesday 2 December 2014

An iconic New Forest bird species has been recorded at Barton Common in New Milton for the first time in more than 10 years.

The rare Dartford warbler, which is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, has been recorded at the common for the first time since August 2004 by local expert Keith Betton.

The New Forest is a UK stronghold for the heathland bird, which nearly died out in this country 50 years ago. Barton Common is owned by New Milton Town Council, which, with the support of the New Forest Land Advice Service and Natural England, has recently reintroduced grazing ponies to the site in order to improve habitats for plants and wildlife.

This includes the Dartford warbler, a long-tailed warbler, resident in the UK, which has suffered in the past from cold winters. In the 1960s the population declined to just a few pairs, and although it has gradually recovered it is still considered to be threatened.

Dartford warblers nest in dense gorse bushes, which occur in heathland and scrubland sites that are well-managed, and feed on caterpillars, beetles and spiders.

Keith Betton, County Recorder for the Hampshire Ornithological Society, said: ‘It’s always exciting when a rare bird is recorded in a new location, so I was pleased to hear the distinctive call of the Dartford warbler at Barton Common. I have talked to other local birdwatchers who visit the area and they are as excited as I am. The only previous sighting was in 2004, despite the fact that they are relatively widespread on the New Forest heaths.

‘The grazed gorse at Barton Common is a good habitat for the birds, and I’m hopeful that in the coming months we will record even more species on the common for the first time. There are two birds present - so I am hoping they may stay around for the breeding season.’

Geoffrey Blunden, New Milton Town Councillor, said: ‘We have been working with the Land Advice Service for several years to change the way the common is managed, fulfilling the Town Council’s obligation to ensure this important site is looked after in the best possible way for the enjoyment of all.

‘I am pleased the scrub clearance and reintroduction of grazing stock is already helping to return the common to its former glory. One of the aims of these changes is to improve the site as a habitat for many types of plants and wildlife, so to hear Dartford warbler on the common is a real joy.

‘As well as improvements for wildlife, the common is also undergoing work to ensure the area remains an enjoyable place for local people to walk. This includes widening the paths across the common and clearing scrub from ‘pinch points’ to improve conditions under foot and working with the grazier to monitor the behaviour of the ponies.’

To record your wildlife and plant life sightings at Barton Common and throughout Hampshire search ‘living record Hampshire’ online, or email communitywildlifeplans@nflandadvice.org.uk.

The New Forest Land Advice Service is funded by the New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and the Verderers.

The grazing schemes in New Milton, which includes Barton Common, are part of the Town Council’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme, which provides financial support to assist with management of their important wildlife sites.

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Dartford warbler facts

  • Dartford warblers are named after Dartford in north west Kent, because they were first noted by naturalists at nearby Bexley.
  • Unlike most warblers in the UK, the Dartford warbler has distinct male and female plumages
  • The largest European populations are in the Iberian peninsula
  • There are around 3,200 breeding pairs in the UK.

Notes to photo editor:

A Dartford warbler, taken by New Forest-based photographer Luke Parkinson.

Notes to editor:

About the New Forest Land Advice Service

The New Forest Land Advice Service is available to landowners and occupiers who would like advice and support on a wide range of issues relating to land management. The advisors operate across the National Park, the Avon Valley and the coastal plain. Since the service started in 2010 it has advised more than 300 businesses.

The service offers:

  • A free and independent service for the land managing community in and around the New Forest and Avon Valley
  • Support for landowners, farmers, New Forest Commoners, equine owners, graziers and community groups
  • Advice to anyone who owns or manages a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) in the area
  • A small grant scheme which can support capital works which benefit the landscape, biodiversity and cultural heritage of the area.

To find out more about the New Forest Land Advice Service, or arrange a visit, please call 01590 646696 or email enquiries@nfladvice.org.uk.

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more

Media Contact:

Matt Stroud, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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