Skylark

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What is a Skylark?

The Skylark is a bird whose song is sometimes described as a ‘long, liquid warbling’, is one of the quintessential sounds of spring and early summer.

The skylark spends much of its time on the ground but will also perch on fence posts and other low, open perches. Its flight is characterised by seemingly stiff but very rapid wingbeats and during its song flight can rise quickly out-of-sight above its territory.

Why is the Skylark important to the Surrey Hills?

The condition of skylark habitat and successful breeding is threatened by:

  • The move away from spring-sown crops
  • Intensive grazing of suitable nesting areas
  • Disturbance of nesting sites
  • Frequent grass cutting regimes

What habitat does the Skylark like?

Pasture

Permanent pasture and rough grazing (hills, heath and moorland) accounts for about 58% of the total utilised agricultural area in England of 17.36 million hectares. This rises to nearly 65% if temporary grassland (under 5 years old) is included. This figure will include specific grassland types such as chalk grassland, dry acid grassland and floodplain grazing marsh but the majority will be agriculturally improved pastures that support the livestock sector.

In common with all ground-nesting birds, it prefers open, extensively managed sites and will nest in grassland and spring-sown arable crops but avoids hedgerows and any other cover that might help predators locate their nest.

What can be done to benefit the Skylark?

Good management and habitat creation opportunities for the skylark  include:
  • well-managed hedgerows that are dense from top-to-bottom and generally not more than 2m high
  • grass margins alongside hedgerows to provide a good source of insects and added cover when nesting
  • conservation headlands where the outside 6m of a cereal crop is not treated with any herbicides or insecticides
  • provision of good seed sources such as weedy stubbles during the winter
  • creating areas of wild bird mix including cereals for winter food
  • on all-grass farms, unsprayed and uncut margins can be left adjacent to hedgerows.

 

Creating and managing areas for the Skylark will help deliver the following benefits to communities:
  • Clean water
  • Clean air
  • Protection from and mitigation of environmental hazards
  • Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • Beauty, heritage and engagement

These illustrations are by an artist taking part in a programme delivered by Watts Gallery Trust and funded by the Michael Varah Memorial Fund. This series of 30 Surrey Hills Indicator Species were commissioned by Surrey Hills Society and funded by Surrey Hills Trust Fund as part of the Making Space for Nature Exhibition.