Mar 01 2024

The season ahead

Selfie photo of Sarah in her burgundy "Thames Basin Heaths" woolly hat and heathland behind.
Click Image to Enlarge

Heathland birds are already thinking ahead to another nesting season, and so must we. It all kicks off this week…March marks the beginning of another year on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. Our seasonal wardens started on Monday, our #PawsOnPathsPlease signs are going up and Senior Warden Zoe is well ahead with her event planning.

Photo of a girl with long blond hair pokes her head out from behind a sign that says "Keep to main paths".

Senior Warden Zoe

First up are our Easter holiday activities, when we’ll be inviting you to ‘Spring into Nature’ at Lightwater Country Park and Yateley Common. And watch this space for a special Easter week, Wildfire Awareness Week, in collaboration with the Fire and Rescue Service. Every season we dread a devastating heathland wildfire, but a fun week of fire engines, competitions and more will help spread the #BeWildfireAware message and get the season off to the safest start possible.

Next on my radar is May and the return of the Nightjars from Africa. Hearing the first ethereal churring of these magical birds is always a highlight for me. If you haven’t been out at dusk to experience it for yourself, we hope you’ll join us on the heaths this season. Quite unique, these strange, almost prehistoric-looking birds, make an epic journey from their African territories to nest in busy southeast England. But unless you know where to look and when to listen, you may not even know they’re there! Perfectly camouflaged, silent and stationary during the day, they nest right on the ground and don’t make themselves known unless they’re disturbed accidentally. And that’s where you come in, by keeping to the main paths and keeping dogs with you on the paths, you’ll help Nightjars and other heathland wildlife have a great season. Sometimes people say that the heaths are common land and we should be allowed to go wherever we like, but if we look after the birds, we’re helping to protect the heaths for everyone to enjoy. We’re lucky to have such wonderful heaths and the birds offer them a huge amount of protection.

Photo of brown streaky bird perched on a log.

The Nightjars arrive back from Africa in May. Their churring ‘song’ sounds nothing like other birds you’ve heard! (credit: Rob Solomon)

From May onwards, myself and my colleague Nicky will be a whirlwind of activity, putting the word out about Heath Week, our flagship week of family-friendly activities at the beginning of the summer holidays. Our team works hard all year, and especially hard during Heath Week, but it’s such great fun, we all look forward to it. Mike and Michael’s butterfly walks at Chobham Common are a firm favourite, the reptile roadshows are always a hit and where would we be without our arts & crafts gazebo! We hope you’re looking forward to it as much as we are.

Photo of a little girl and a little boy proudly holding the Nightjar nests they've made

Nightjar crafts during Heath Week.

So, it may be wet and soggy outside, but we have everything to look forward to. Please do join in with our activities this season, we’d love to see you at one of our events. And please do help us spread the word about keeping to main paths during the nesting season, and keeping dogs with you on the paths 🙏

Thames Basin Heaths Partnership
Pictorial messages for "Keep to main paths", "Prevent fires" and "Explore alternatives"


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