Help us protect our ground nesting birds

Dartford Warbler sitting on yellow gorse with a moth in its beak

As we emerge from winter, it’s a joy to hear the spring birdsong in the trees and skies around us. However, it’s also a time to be mindful of the precious, almost invisible nests just steps away from our feet. Please help us to protect these birds by sticking to the paths and keeping your dog on a lead and close to you from 1 March to 31 July. 

The heathlands of the Surrey Hills provide the perfect breeding ground for some of our rarer birds such as woodlark, the Dartford warbler and the elusive nocturnal nightjar. 

Nightjar chicks camouflaged in their nest on the heathland
Nightjar chicks camouflaged in their nest on the ground
Nightjar chicks camouflaged in their nest on the heathland

Unlike most birds, these three build their nests on the ground rather than in the trees, making them extremely vulnerable. Their nests are cleverly camouflaged so as not to attract the attention of predators and are often unnoticed by walkers and visitors to the countryside.

Dogs, with their more powerful senses, are especially good at finding these treasures which are hidden to us. If disturbed, they may abandon their nests leaving their chicks to starve.

Enjoy a walk with your dog on the heathland
Visitor with a dog on a lead walking along the path
Enjoy a walk with your dog on the heathland

Stephanie Fudge, National Trust General Manager for the Surrey Hills explains: ‘The numbers and diversity of these birds is so important for our environment and the food chain. We see large numbers of ground nesting birds across the Surrey Hills from March until early Summer.

'Their breeding success is critically dependent on not being disturbed and so we would ask that visitors are considerate, to keep to paths and keep their dogs on leads in sensitive areas. Together we can protect and nurture the success of these nesting families.’