Very many thanks to David Mears, the National Trust South Wight Warden for breaking this news on the forum last Friday – haven’t had a chance to put it up until today. Here it is for those of you who missed it on the forum last week.
With the warmer weather, longer days and the plants starting to grow again there can be nothing more pleasant than a stroll in the countryside with your faithful companion. As you walk along the footpath your companion charges around with a happy smile, wagging tail and tongue hanging out. Every so often a small inconspicuous bird takes to the air and then another. But wait”¦.
Why have they taken to the air? More often than not these birds are either Meadow Pipits or Skylarks, both of which nest on the ground. Sensing that a predator is near they have run away from their nest and taken flight to distract the would-be egg eater. It is not so bad if the disturbance is just once, but when it is regular the parents could quite easily abandon the nest.
To help prevent this happening the National Trust is encouraging people to keep to established paths and keep their dogs under close control this spring and summer on the Ventnor Downs and Easton Field in Freshwater Bay. The two main areas where this restriction is in place on the Ventnor Downs are Luccombe Down and the eastern end of Wroxall Down from Bridleway V8. By minimising disturbance to the birds you can help them to have a successful breeding year.
This restriction will be in place from the 1st March through to the 31st July which is the main part of the breeding season, although the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits may be bringing up the family well into August. This is the third year that we have asked people to respect the nesting birds and so far the results have been positive.
David Mears, South Wight Warden said, “Although the birds can nest anywhere on the downs, by taking these positive steps and with the co-operation of the local dog walkers I feel we can really improve the chances for breeding birds whilst still enabling people to walk their dogs and enjoy the wonderful open countryside. Being the owner of two young Springer Spaniels I realise that your dog likes to run free, but I do ask that if you can’t keep your dog under close control in these areas then please keep it on a short lead.”
One question often raised is regarding the cattle and ponies trampling nests. David answered this “Although there is a possibility of nest trampling by livestock or people, this is very rare. The greatest problem is disturbance”.
The National Trust will be once again monitoring the success of breeding birds on the Ventnor Downs to assess the effectiveness of this approach to visitor management.[Meadow Pipit image courtesy of The Natural Stone and Ventnor Downs Image courtesy of Joe Cornish, NTPL]