Nightjar set for return as nature gets a hand in Hampshire forest transformation

NATURE The Whiteley Pastures site, and inset a nightjar. Picture: Malcolm Wells (122677-5745)
NATURE The Whiteley Pastures site, and inset a nightjar. Picture: Malcolm Wells (122677-5745)
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FORESTS around Whiteley have been rejuvenated with the planting of thousands of new trees – which could attract a rare bird.

As part of a five-year project to transform Whiteley Pastures, the most western tip of the Forest of Bere, thousands of native broadleaf trees such as oak, ash, sweet cherry and alder have been planted to replace trees removed by the Forestry Commission.

Nightjar

Nightjar

Much of the woods had been previously planted with non-native conifer trees, such as Western Hemlock, which have created dark and overgrown pathways.

It is hoped that the newly-planted areas will encourage to the area the rare nightjar, a protected ground-nesting bird which can be identified at dusk with its distinctive ‘chirruping’.

Simon James, Forestry Commission beat forester for Whiteley Pastures, said: ‘The work over the last few years with heavy harvesting machinery can look destructive as it creates a lot of mud and mess in the short term.

‘But forestry is a long-term business and as the natural processes take over nature bounces back into life with abundance.’

Whiteley Pastures, which is part of Botley Wood, Everett’s and Mushes Copses, is a strategically important forest as it provides a stepping stone for wildlife between the South Downs National Park and New Forest National Park on the increasingly built-up south coast plain.

Mr James added: ‘The transformation has encouraged local people such as dog walkers who live in the area to visit the forest more regularly.

‘Others who work nearby on the Solent Business Park and elsewhere go out for walks at lunchtime or use the forest as a place to keep fit by running or cycling there too.’

As a site of specific scientific interest, the newly opened areas allow sunlight back on to the forest floor, benefitting wild flowers such as wood violets, wood anemone, yellow archangel and lesser celendine.

In turn these conditions and flowers also support butterflies such as the rare Pearl Bordered Fritillary, which became extinct here but returned last year.

Within the forest there is a large area of wet woodland, which is particularly important to species such as woodland bats, which feed on the insects.

Wet woodland is a priority conservation habitat because it is in decline in the UK, particularly in the south.

In addition the Forestry Commission has created a network of new ponds, to support populations of great crested newts, other rare and protected amphibians such as common frogs, reptiles such as grass snakes and dragonflies and damselflies.

It also promotes the presence of a variety of woodland bats and the presence of trout makes it a potential habitat for the otter.