Feb 18 2024

Woodlark wanderings

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

If you’ve been following our social media recently, you’ll know that my colleague, Nicky, has been following our Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area Woodlarks with interest. It may feel like winter to you and I, but Woodlarks have other things on their minds. Across the heaths, males are singing! And that can only mean one thing, a new breeding season is underway.

Of all the heathland birds, Woodlarks are the first to get going, often heard singing as early as January or February. They’re singing to entice a female and to stake their claim on a territory. Once they’ve paired up, they’ll build a nest. It’ll be right on the ground, often tucked into a tussock of grass. If they don’t get disturbed, they’ll rear two broods of chicks between March and July.

A brown mottled bird on the ground

A woodlark (credit Mark Leitch)

Not a common bird, and certainly not seen in other habitats like woods and gardens, our Woodlarks are special. Even across the 8,200 hectares of the Thames Basin Heaths, there are less than 200 pairs. Perhaps not the most striking of birds, their mottled brown plumage helps them to blend into their surroundings. Protecting them from would-be predators. But the thing I love about them, is their beautiful, lilting song. Often described as ‘fluting’, ‘melodious’, ‘liquid’, I love to hear those beautiful descending notes!

A mottled brown bird nesting on the ground, tucked in amongst dry bracken. It's very well camouflaged.

Nesting Woodlark (credit Andy Page/Forestry England)

Our wardens are out on the heaths all week and have been reporting into Nicky where they’ve been singing. From Bramshill Forest to Velmead Common, Tweseldown, Barossa and beyond. We’ve got our ears pricked!

Please help us spread the word about keeping to main paths, and keeping dogs with you on the paths, to help these lyrical heathland song birds!

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



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