Saving the sound of summer

A skylark in heather
Published : 10 Mar 2016

Have you ever stood on open parkland or in a field on a summer’s day and lost yourself in the stunning song of the skylark? Sadly, changes in farming practices and habitat loss are leading to some of our most treasured birds being put at risk. Populations of the skylark and another shy, ground-nesting bird, the woodcock, have more than halved since the 1980s and are now on the official red list of endangered birds.

So what does it mean to be on the red list? Mark Eaton, Principal Conservation Scientist for the RSPB, explains: ‘To be on the red list you need to be a bird of the highest conservation concern, meaning you’re in a pretty bad way. You’re basically at risk of extinction globally’.
 
The National Trust, works hard to protect and encourage vulnerable species and at Blickling Estate we have created habitats for these birds where they can safely nest and breed.
" We feel very lucky to have both skylark and woodcock on the estate. We also feel a huge responsibility to look after these vulnerable little birds. Over the years, we’ve worked hard to manage the woodland to increase the diversity of habitat and species. The park land, now restored to grazing, also encourages a wide variety of grassland insects, small mammals and bird life."
- Dave Brady, Head Ranger
Skylarks prefer the open rough grass of Blickling Park and especially Tower Park; whereas the Great Wood provides ideal habitat for the woodcock. For both birds, a lack of disturbance is essential to their well-being.
 
So how can we help? The Countryside Code gives helpful tips: ‘Between 1st March and the 31st July, keep to the paths when walking, cycling or riding and make sure dogs are on a short lead or by your side.’
 
‘It takes very little to disturb these sensitive creatures and the tiny ground nests and eggs can easily be crushed or abandoned by upset birds’ says Dave Brady. ‘We can all help the plight of the woodcock and skylark. It would be so sad to lose any more of these wonderful native species. It simply wouldn’t be summer without them.’
 
To help to deliver this message the National Trust has recruited new volunteer countryside rangers who will be dedicated to looking after the wildlife and around 400,000 visitors that enjoy the parkland each year.