We are lucky to have rare wildlife species in our area and we need to help protect them. Ground nesting birds are especially vulnerable during the nesting season. Nightjars, Dartford warblers, lapwing, skylark and woodlark make very well camouflaged nests on the ground and it is easy for people and dogs to stray too close and frighten the adults from the nest, leaving the eggs or chicks vulnerable to cold and predators.
Alex Cruickshank, Senior Land Manager from BBOWT Wildlife Trust, explained: “Nightjars are one of the rarest birds in the British countryside. They fly all the way from Africa every summer to lay their eggs on the ground at places like Snelsmore Common. Unfortunately we haven’t seen or heard any of these nocturnal birds at Snelsmore Common in the last few years, and we want to do all we can to help encourage them back.”
The Wildlife Trust has seen a dramatic decline in some species of birds in recent years. The Trust is working hard to make the conditions just right for them by managing the heathland, but visitors can help ensure the future of these birds in a few simple ways.
BBOWT have now appointed wardens on Snelsmore & Greenham Common – Conor, Trudi and Steve – who are very friendly and knowledgeable and can answer any questions.
“The wardens will be asking visitors to try to keep their dogs on the paths and tracks, rather than running across the heath, which is where the birds make well-camouflaged nests on the ground. It’s easy for people and dogs to unintentionally stray too close and frighten the adult birds from the nests, leaving the eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation by crows and foxes.”
Dog walkers, please follow these simple guidelines from BBOWT (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust):
1 March – 31 July
Keep dogs on paths and away from red zones in Greenham and Snelsmore Commons and any open gravel areas where plovers might be nesting.
Discourage your dog from entering the undergrowth by throwing sticks etc along the path. This also reduces the risk of your dog picking up ticks or getting bitten by an adder.
Please pick up your dog poo as it can spread disease.
When near cattle, sheep or ponies please keep your dog on a lead as livestock can be injured if chased.
Following these simple guidelines you, your dog and local wildlife can enjoy the wonderful countryside we are so lucky to have around us – and now is a fabulous time to get out and enjoy it!
Lapwing chick – Elliot Lea
Dog walkers – Rob Appleby