Park life

P3218104©Diane Dalli

In the 11th of a series of articles featuring the images of local photographers who document the wildlife of Wanstead Park and the surrounding area, Diane Dalli presents her shot of a Skylark on Wanstead Flats

I enjoy roaming Wanstead Flats, looking for birds to photograph at different times of the year. During the wet and windy conditions in April, there seemed to be a scarcity of birds, but when I visited recently, there was a lot more activity with many birds looking their best in their breeding plumage and singing loudly to attract a mate. Most noticeable were the Skylarks with their beautiful warbling song.

Skylarks can be seen hopping in the meadow grass, sometimes perching on a log to sing, and at other times rising up into the sky. They sing loudly as they go higher and higher until they are just a dot in the distance, hover for a while and then plummet back to earth again. It is thought that singing at a great height helps to spread the sound further to attract any local female Skylarks.

Wanstead Flats is the nearest Skylark breeding site to central London, and as Skylark numbers have been declining in recent times, a plan to help them survive in this location was put in place by cordoning off two areas during the breeding season. Skylarks are ground nesters, so their nests are very prone to disturbance by footfall, dogs off the lead and predation by foxes and rats. The plan to protect them seems to have paid off, with a small yearly increase in their numbers (at least four birds fledged the nest last year).

To photograph them, it is best to locate the source of the singing, and once a bird is spotted on the ground, follow it as it hops about. If you are lucky, it will perch on a log or post and present a clear view. However, to get a picture of one as it soars into the sky is challenging to say the least! Lying flat on my back in the grass seemed to be the best position, ignoring any curious glances from passers-by!  

Although some walkers have expressed their resentment at the temporary barriers, most people view it as a very small price to pay for more views and sounds of these beautiful, iconic birds.

To view more of Diane’s wildlife photos, visit wnstd.com/dalli