Local community gets behind campaign to help New Forest’s rare birdsPUBLISHED ON: 15 FEBRUARY 2022
Joint press release with Forestry England
Groups from across the local community are supporting efforts to help ensure the survival of rare ground nesting birds in the New Forest this spring and summer. With growing public awareness of the plight of these vulnerable birds it is hoped that many more people using the Forest will help them by taking a few simple measures.
The New Forest National Park is a Special Protection Area for Birds and an important breeding location for endangered ground nesting birds such as the lapwing, nightjar and curlew. Under pressure in many parts of the UK due to habitat loss and disturbance by people, helping them breed successfully in the New Forest is critical to their survival.
New Forest Dog Owners Group, the British Horse Society, New Forest Cycle Working Group, PEDALL New Forest Inclusive Cycling, and New Forest Access Forum are among many local groups who are getting behind efforts to support these birds by sharing tips and advice on how best to enjoy the Forest during the breeding season.
Heather Gould, Chair of New Forest Dog Owners Group, said: “The New Forest is a really special place for bird life. It is really simple for everyone who spends time here to help protect them by obeying the signs which are put out. We’d advise all dog walkers to avoid the protected heathlands if they can walk elsewhere during the nesting season. They should always stay on the main tracks in sensitive areas.”
Unlike most birds, ground nesting birds build nests and raise their young on the Forest floor. They come into the New Forest to breed from early spring until late summer attracted by the mix of bogs, wetlands, and open heathlands with many returning to the same nesting spot every year. The area is a key location for many species including the Dartford warbler with around a third of the British breeding population found here.
People are being asked to join the effort to increase the successful hatching rates of these special birds by taking a few, simple measures when out and about in the New Forest during the breeding season.
Donna Neseyif, Inclusive Cycling Project Manager at PEDALL, said: “We have the pleasure of running guided walks and cycles through the New Forest on way-marked cycle routes. We love educating those visiting on why the Forest is so special and how and why we need everyone to do their bit to protect the landscape and the wildlife. This includes asking those visiting to be extra careful throughout the ground nesting bird season and always keep to the main tracks during their time here. We want these unique birds to be able to return for generations to come.”
From March, special quiet zones will be established at critical breeding locations to help reduce the likelihood of birds abandoning nests and exposing chicks to predators. A small number of car parks near to these areas will be closed: Clayhill, Crockford, Crockford Clump, Hinchelsea, Hinchelsea Moor, Ocknell Pond, Ogdens, Shatterford and Yew Tree Heath. Alternative car parks are located near to all these areas.
In the quiet zones, people are asked not to disturb the birds by sticking to the main tracks and not to venture onto open, heathland areas where birds will be nesting. Those with dogs are asked to lend their support by keeping dogs with them on tracks and where necessary using leads to keep them under close control.
Hannah Marsh, British Horse Society Regional Manager for the South of England, said: “From now until late summer, many special birds make their nests on the ground in heaths and open areas of the Forest. Making small adjustments to where we ride during this time can make a big difference to their survival. We encourage horse riders to stick to the main tracks during this nesting season and help give these birds the best chance of not being disturbed.”
When enjoying time on the Forest the public are urged to look out for special signs in key nesting zones highlighting the presence of the birds and providing advice on how best to help them. Orange signs indicate areas very close to breeding grounds and can be seen in locations including car parks and on the main tracks. Red “stop” signs highlight nesting sites in the immediate vicinity and ask the public to avoid these areas.
Richard Taylor, Chair of the New Forest Cycle Working Group and member of New Forest Access Forum, said: “The New Forest is a haven for wildlife, making it a magical place to cycle and tune into the sounds of so many different types of bird song. To keep this place special it’s vitally important to cycle on the way-marked cycle routes, especially during the ground nesting bird season, and not to veer off across open areas and heathlands. When planning your route, cycling, walking or riding, know where the quiet breeding zones are located and which car parks are closed, so you can avoid these areas.”
More information about ground nesting birds in the New Forest can be found at www.forestryengland.uk/article/time-nest and www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/conservation/protecting-nature/ground-nesting-birds
For a full list of up-to-date car park closures visit www.forestryengland.uk/article/new-forest-car-park-closures
GROUND NESTING BIRD FACTS
Dartford warbler: This small, dark, long-tailed warbler is resident in the UK. It will perch on top of a gorse stem to sing but is often seen as a small flying shape bobbing between bushes. Their nest is not on the ground, but close to it in gorse or heather.
Nightjar: Travelling from Africa to breed in the New Forest, they are found in heathland, around woodland edges and in recently cleared forest. The New Forest is a stronghold for them with around 15% of the UK population.
Woodlark: These secretive and rare birds build their nests in heather and the felled woodland areas of the Forest. Woodlarks are best seen and heard singing in February and March early in the morning, The New Forest holds a significant 16% or so of the UK population.
Wood warbler: One of the largest warblers in Europe, it has bright yellow upper parts, throat and upper chest and white under parts. They are currently on the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action.
Stonechat: Males have striking black heads with white around the side of their neck, orange-red breasts and a mottled brown back. Females lack the male’s black head but have brown backs and an orange tinge to their chests.
Meadow pipit: This small, brown, streaky bird has been declining in the UK since the mid-1970s, resulting in this species being included on the amber list of conservation concern.
Skylark: These small birds are streaky brown with a small crest, which can be raised when the bird is excited or alarmed, and a white-sided tail. It is renowned for its display flight, vertically up in the air. Its recent and dramatic population declines make it a Red List species.
Curlew: These large wading birds with majestic beaks nest in scrapes on the ground. Their plumage is beautifully camouflaged to help disguise them from potential predators. The chicks can run around just hours after hatching. This species is globally threatened and is classed as red, the highest conservation priority.
Redshank: These ‘wardens of the marsh’ call out noisily when they are disturbed or feel threatened. The parent birds make a ‘tent’ out of the grass around the nest to help camouflage it. The birds are vulnerable to cold winter weather, drainage of habitat and disturbance. They are now very rare in the Forest away from the coast with only a few breeding records in the last few years.
Snipe: This small wader is found in the Forest’s bogs and mires. When disturbed they fly off rapidly in a zig zag pattern. Their high display flights feature ‘drumming’, the noise of outer tail feathers vibrating in the air as the bird swoops down.
Lapwing: Lapwings are often nicknamed “peewits”, after the calls which are given in swooping display flights. Breeding lapwings have undergone widespread and marked declines in the UK over the last few decades, making the New Forest increasingly important for them. This species is globally threatened and is classed as red, the highest conservation priority.