For those of you who read my National Nestbox week themed blog last week, I focused on the 'garden' birds who might benefit from finding a nestbox carefully positioned in your garden, but of course not all birds nest in boxes, or even up in trees....
For some birds, very little construction work takes place. Wading birds like lapwings simply make a small dent or scrape in the mud in which to lay eggs. They incubate their eggs for about a month, defending their nest from predators by mobbing them or feigning injury. As soon as they hatch, rather than being bald, blind as helpless as many chicks are, the fluffy long-legged chicks are up on their feet and scurrying round within hours.
Lapwing chick by Anne Harwood
Out on the heathland, the rare woodlark simply nests in a depression in the ground amongst a tuft of grass or heather. They start their breeding season early and hope to raise 2 or 3 broods of chicks between March & August.
Woodlark by Gareth Hughes
Later in the year they are joined by the nightjar who has flown here from southern Africa to breed. Nightjars are ground nesting birds, relying on their superb camouflaged plumage to keep them hidden during the daytime. The female will lay 2 eggs, timing her laying so that the chicks hatch around a full moon – more moonlight means better hunting conditions for the adults who fly at dusk and dawn looking for moths and other insects to feed their chicks. Once hatched, the female will continue to feed and brood the young for a further 12 days, then abandon her first clutch to start a second. The male will continue to look after the first brood of chicks for a further week until they fledge.
Nesting on the ground can be tough…there are dangers from predators and these birds are incredibly vulnerable to disturbance. As we've heard woodlark singing on our heathland this last week we've now closed the central section of the heath making it a 'wildlife only' zone to give these rare and special birds the chance to breed without being disturbed. If you're keen to listen out for their beautiful song I'd suggest an early start, wander up to 'the clump' (the highest spot on our heathland) and then take a seat on one of the benches that look south.
Observing birds nest building and raising young can be fascinating and very rewarding - but do remember that this is an important and exhausting time for the parents and ensure that you give them space to come and go as they need to gathering food for those hungry young mouths.
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