At the beginning of May a posting by Val Butcher on Hothfield Heathlands flora and fauna Facebook page caused great joy. It was a remarkable set of videos and photos of a tree pipit singing while perched at the top of a tree. This welcome rare migrant had arrived from Saharan Africa. The tree pipit is on the UK conservation Red List as a species needing urgent action and is protected by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Heathland with an occasional oak or birches to perch and sing in, bushes, low scrub and open space, is the tree pipits ideal habitat. The sexes look alike, and the male in far-carrying song climbs steeply into the air for a short time then parachutes down, floating to ground or tree with wings raised above its head. Birds are breeding now, in ground level nests of dried grass and hair on a base of moss tucked into grass or heather tussocks, and may have two broods before flying south in August.
They forage for insects and sometimes seed among the ground vegetation. The biggest threat to these birds is disturbance from dogs, please keep dogs under control at all times to protect these and other vulnerable ground-nesters. All young birds rely entirely on insects for moisture and protein, so please avoid using insecticides in gardens and wherever possible give space to the wild flowers and longer grass that insects need.