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Wardens at Snelsmore Common help visitors learn about wildlife and protect birds

Thursday 19th January 2017

Sneslmore Common, NewburySnelsmore Common. Pic Wendy Tobitt

The rare birds of Snelsmore Common will receive extra protection from the local Wildlife Trust this spring and summer. Three wildlife wardens have been recruited by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust specifically to advise visitors to the 96 hectare site north of Newbury about the resident birds and summer migrants that nest on the ground and are easily disturbed by walkers and their dogs.

Alex Cruickshank, Senior Land Manager from the Wildlife Trust, explained: “Nightjars are one of the rarest birds in the British countryside. They fly all the way from Africa every summer to lay their eggs on the ground at places like Snelsmore Common. Unfortunately we haven’t seen or heard any of these nocturnal birds at Snelsmore Common in the last few years, and we want to do all we can to help encourage them back.”

The Wildlife Trust, which looks after Snelsmore Common on behalf of West Berkshire Council, has seen a dramatic decline in some species of birds in recent years. The Trust is working hard to make the conditions just right for them by managing the heathland, but visitors can help ensure the future of these birds in a few simple ways.

“The wardens will be asking visitors to try to keep their dogs on the paths and tracks, rather than running across the heath, which is where the birds make well-camouflaged nests on the ground. It’s easy for people and dogs to unintentionally stray too close and frighten the adult birds from the nests, leaving the eggs and chicks vulnerable to predation by crows and foxes.

“We understand that people come to Snelsmore Common to enjoy the wild open space away from rules and regulations, which is why the wardens will be promoting a route that avoids the locations where the birds are known to nest. I hope that people will enjoy the common even more when they learn about the wildlife that lives there and how they can help protect it.”

The new wardens: Conor, Trudi and Steve will be working from 1 March to 31 July on Snelsmore and Greenham Common. “The wardens are very friendly and knowledgeable, so please have a chat with them and ask how you can help the wildlife on both these important nature reserves,” said Alex.