The skylark is in the top 10 of UK songsters, a song which has inspired poets and writers through the centuries. You can hear them singing as they soar high above the salt marsh.
Listen to the skylark’s song . . .
recording by Patrik Åberg, XC27005. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/27005
The skylark is a small brown bird with a small crest on its head. So its fame is not for fancy plumage but for its song and vertical display flight. It advertises its territory by soaring and singing high above the marsh, so high it can be hard to spot. Reportedly they can fly up to 1,000 ft high and sing for an hour! That is quite a feat for such a little bird. The delights of the skylark’s melodic song drifting down is hard to beat when walking by the sea wall. Listen out for them particularly in spring and early summer; though you can see and hear them at any time of the year.
Sadly the skylark population has halved in recent years. According to the RSPB the UK population halved during the 1990s, and is still declining. So they are now red-listed as a conservation concern. We are lucky to still have skylarks here but for how long?
Skylarks nest on the ground, so like all ground nesting birds their nests are particularly vulnerable.
Threats to the skylark include changes in farming practices such as early harvest before the eggs have hatched and chicks have fledged. Nest disturbance and trampling plus predation are also problems for ground nesting birds.
On the salt marsh they have the added complication of high tides flooding their nests. However they nest between April and August so they miss the very highest spring tides which are in March and September.
One of the main causes for the population fall is believed to be the reduction in the number of nesting attempts. So we want to do everything we can to encourage the skylarks to nest on the salt marsh. To help them please do not walk on the salt marsh itself but stay near to the sea wall.
Watch this great ID video from the BTO. It compares the skylark to the woodlark and although you are unlikely to see the latter here it is worth watching.
Further reading and references: