Martin Bennett lives in our Parish and is a keen ornithologist as well as a highly accomplished photographer. He writes here about a fascinating bird that can be found locally, we are privileged to have them here. Martin writes with passion about the potential threats to their successful breeding.
Despite the Woodlark being relatively abundant on Ibsley Common and Rockford Common, some localised areas of the New Forest, and some parts of Southern England, it is more scarce elsewhere in Britain although it is increasing its range. It is classified as a Schedule One bird, so any disturbance of any kind to this species is an offence.
The two Commons have roughly 6-8 breeding pairs. They are early breeders starting their first brood in late March, normally laying 3-4 eggs in a cup shaped nest directly on the ground. Generally they will have two, and sometimes three broods throughout the summer.
Unlike the Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, and Tree Pipit, which all prefer to nest in more mature heather and vegetation. The Woodlark and its close relative the Skylark are to be found in areas of shorter heather, which unfortunately makes them far more susceptible to failed broods, this is why it is so important to keep dogs to tracks at all times throughout the breeding season.
Once the Woodlark and the Skylark breeding season has finished the majority leave the heathland and spend the winter months in pasture fields and arable land.
The Woodlarks display flight over its territory is very similar manner to a Skylark, but its song is a beautiful series of descending, fluty notes, once heard, never forgotten.
Woodlark in flight
The best way to identify a Woodlark as opposed to the very similar looking Skylark are, the song, very short tail (most noticeable when displaying in flight), a distinctive light supercilium (stripe from the base of bill over the eye to the nape), and white markings at the tip of the tail.
Skylark for comparison