Protecting the Skylarks on Wanstead Flats

Having completed the Wren Group's "Migrant Bird Watch" on Sunday (see here), and experienced the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits preparing for their nesting season, I was disappointed to see that the notices that were put up last year relating to ground nesting birds had not been replaced.

Skylark PosterProtecting the Skylarks in 2009...

These notices were put up on the Aldersbrook area of Wanstead Flats, at dog-walking access points to the rough grassland, and read:

"This area of extensive grassland is an important habitat for ground-nesting birds which are easily disturbed. We would appreciate if you could keep your dog on a lead as you pass through this area to minimise the disturbance. Thank you for your co-operation."

It is always difficult to ascertain how much effect these sort of notices have, but even if just one dog-owner stops and thinks and puts their dog onto a lead, that might have saved one Skylark's nest. Certainly you can see dogs happily rummaging about in the rough grass - evidently searching for something! So - I was pleasantly surprised whilst doing the first of a series of butterfly transects the following Saturday to see that the notices - albeit temporary ones - were back in place. I understand that more permanent ones are on order.

We should soon be seeing notices at the access points to Chalet Wood in Wanstead Park which ask people to treat the Bluebells with care. Chalet Wood is yearly becoming more popular with people coming to see the show, and indeed the Wren Group's annual Bluebell Walk has now been supplanted by walks organised by others - including the City of London. This just emphasises how conservation work over the years has made something better - for the Group has been working on Chalet Wood for this reason for years

What we must ensure is that when we have something that is good and valuable, we use appropriate means to inform and educate people of this so they can enjoy them too. Simple notices may help in this - so long as they are removed whilst not required or replenished when old and tatty.

(for more on the Skylarks of Wanstead Flats, watch the video here)

Paul Ferris, 29th March 2010