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Wardens at Snelsmore and Greenham Commons help visitors learn about wildlife and protect birds

Monday 5th March 2018

Wildlife Wardens on West Berkshire CommonsSteve, Ruth and Clare, wardens at Snelsmore and Greenham Commons

The rare birds of Snelsmore Common and Greenham Common will receive extra protection from the local Wildlife Trust this spring and summer. Three wildlife wardens recruited by the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust are advising visitors about the resident and summer migrant birds 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. They create a rudimentary nest on the ground within the heath and rear their young.

“Snelsmore Common was once a local stronghold for these birds. Although they weren’t seen or heard on the common in 2015 or 2016, we did hear two male birds churring and calling last year. We want to do all we can to encourage these fascinating nocturnal creatures back, and ensure they return each year.”

The Wildlife Trust, which looks after Snelsmore and Greenham and Crookham Commons 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 three wildlife wardens: Steve Plaisted-Kerr, Ruth Coxon and Clare Sulston (pictured above) 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.

Steve Plaisted-Kerr, who was also one of the wardens last year, said: “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 these commons 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 wardens are working from 1 March to 31 July on both Snelsmore and Greenham Commons. Alex Cruickshank added: “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.”

Read more about Snelsmore Common and the wildlife to see and hear there including nightjars.

Read more about Greenham and Crookham Commons and the wildlife to see there.