By Caroline Steel, former Head of Conservation at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
We are so fortunate to have West Common on which to exercise and there’s plenty to look out for and listen to at the moment, while keeping our distance from people.
Skylarks are singing! They are selecting territories and will soon be building nests. Eggs aren’t usually laid until May when there’s a bit more cover but now is an important time. They won’t try to nest in areas crossed frequently by people and dogs but they are definitely prospecting between the pond and the playing field as well as further away from the busiest parts of the common. If everyone sticks to the main paths and keeps their dogs under close control, we should be seeing a new generation of skylarks in a couple of months’ time.
I haven’t yet seen a house martin, swallow or swift. House martins and swallows have been seen in Lincolnshire already, arriving early from Africa. It would be interesting to know just when they arrive here.
Meanwhile, it’s astonishing to see how many large birds are using the common. I frequently see herons, hovering kestrels and soaring buzzards: the other day there were four buzzards wheeling over the common. Where do they nest? Will the pair of mallard on the pond stay to nest?
There aren’t many flowers out yet, but the wild cherries near the pond are looking lovely. A flower to look out for now is the cuckoo flower or lady’s smock, the food plant of orange tip butterflies: I’ve seen them in my garden, but not yet on the common. Other butterflies to look out for are the comma, peacock, small tortoiseshell and brimstone.
If anyone’s looking for something to do at home then there are two things you can maybe do related to local birds.
- LLRA Bird Survey: Help track birds in and around the Long Leys area by reporting sightings using the Bird-Survey system. This has been developed as part of the 2021-2040 Long Leys Neighbourhood Plan activity.
- See https://long-leys.org/reported-bird-sightings-in-long-leys/ to explore sightings in different areas of Long Leys. See if you can spot the 33 species of birds already reported on West Common.
- See: https://long-leys.org/bird-survey-background/ for details on how to use Bird-Survey to report your own sightings and help complete the picture.
- BTO Garden Watch: If you are fortunate enough to have a garden, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is running a Garden Bird Watch. It’s surprising what you can see when you spend more time looking.
- Visit bto.org/our-science/projects/gbw for more information.