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Select New Forest car parks closed to help rare ground-nesting birds

Curlew chicks hatching (picture: Elli Rivers)
Curlew chicks hatching (picture: Elli Rivers)

NEW Forest car parks have been shut and restrictions imposed on walkers to protect rare ground-nesting birds.

Forestry England is taking part in a nationwide campaign to ensure the survival of species such as the lapwing, nightjar and curlew, with the district one of the last places in the UK they come to breed.

Car park closures enforced from Monday are to create special quiet zones in critical breeding locations. It is hoped that limiting activity will reduce the likelihood of birds abandoning nests and exposing chicks to predators.

The absence of people during last year’s first coronavirus lockdown saw birds take advantage of usually busy areas, such as those next to car parks, to feed.

In the quiet zones, dogs should be kept on leads, if needed, and people should remain on the main tracks and not venture onto open, heathland areas where birds will be nesting.

Orange signs indicate areas very near to breeding grounds, while red “stop” signs highlight nesting sites in the immediate vicinity and ask people to choose another route.

Leanne Sargeant, FE senior ecologist, said: “Anyone who has heard or seen ground-nesting birds on the Forest will know how incredibly fortunate we are to be visited by them.

“However, these birds are now under real threat with numbers declining in the Forest and them having already disappeared from other parts of the UK.

“We are asking the public to help us make sure this doesn’t happen in the New Forest by making some really simple changes.”

She added: “These small adjustments in our daily routines will have a big impact in supporting these birds and our local environment.”

The national park is classed as a Special Protection Area for Birds, and FE said the public can make a major difference during the March to late July breeding season.

The birds are now at extremely low levels across the country and have already disappeared completely from many areas due to habitat loss and human disturbance.

Unlike most species, they build nests and raise their young on the ground, with a mix of bogs, wetlands and open heathlands frequently attracting them to the New Forest.

A key location for the Dartford warbler, among many other birds, the area hosts around a third of the British breeding population.

Car parks affected include those closed in last year’s campaign – Crockford, Crockford Clump, Yewtree Heath, Clayhill and Hinchelsea – as well as Shatterford, Hinchelsea Moor and Ocknell Pond, where birds nested last year.

Alternative car parks are provided near all of these areas. A full list of car park closures can be found at www.forestryengland.uk/article/new-forest-car-park-closures

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