Leytonstone News

Epping Forest visitors asked to keep dogs under control to protect skylarks

Temporary rope cordons and information signs have been installed in sections of Wanstead Flats, where the birds are known to make their nests between February and September

Signs on Wanstead Flats have temporarily cropped up to protect skylarks, Credit: Yve Woodhouse. Inset image: Skylarks flying, Credit: Neil Bowman

Visitors to Epping Forest are being asked to stay out of cordoned off areas and keep dogs under control to help protect a rare bird species.

Temporary rope cordons and information signs have been installed in sections of Wanstead Flats, which borders in Leytonstone, where skylarks are known to make their nests between February and September.

The news comes at the start of the ground-nesting bird season, when other species such as nightjars and Dartford warblers can also be spotted across Epping Forest on the ground or in low-growing bushes.

Wanstead Flats is a special area of conservation and forms part of Epping Forest – which is the largest green space in London and Essex – which is managed by the City of London Corporation.

The Forest stretches from Newham in the south, through to Epping in the north, covering an area of around 8,000 acres.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest and commons committee, Ben Murphy, said: “Some people may think these measures go too far – but the reality is that these birds play a critical role in protecting the Forest and maintaining a balanced ecosystem. They are pest controllers, pollinators and seed dispersers.

“Even in east London’s most urban areas, Epping Forest offers pockets of sanctuary for so much wildlife. The skylarks on Wanstead Flats are the closest returning population of ground-nesting birds to central London we know of, however this does mean that they are vulnerable to disturbance.

“We want everyone to enjoy the abundance of nature found in ‘the green lungs of London’, which is why we are urging visitors to respect these birds by staying out of clearly cordoned-off areas and having dogs under effective control to keep them out too.

“Loose dogs can scare adult birds from nests, leaving chicks vulnerable, or worse, accidental trampling can destroy these habitats in just one step.

“The protective measures we put in place last year resulted in at least four young larks fledging. There were eleven skylarks there at the end of last season and we have seen seven individuals so far, which is incredibly promising.”


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