Space for skylarks

Lockdown is forcing us all to re-connect with the green spaces that are local to us. For Communications Officer, Rachel Shaw, that's not just her small garden but also the wide open space of West Common in Lincoln

Sixteen by six steps, I paced it out. Double it for the front and back, that’s the size of my outside space. Including the footprint of the house, it feels similar to the size of a tennis court.

My world, like everyone else’s, has shrunk. Contracted to the size of my garden and where I can walk from my front door. It’s challenging but I’m thankful for my garden and, whilst we’re permitted a daily dose of outdoor exercise, I have the open space of Lincoln’s West Common.

The Common is a short walk from my house. I went there a few days ago, early in the morning when I would normally be on my morning commute. A skylark sang somewhere high above, invisible against the backdrop of blue.

Then one landed in front of me. He stood proudly on top of a mole hill. The king of the castle. But the crown hadn’t been given yet. Another skylark appeared. There was a flurry of feathers. Tail feathers were fanned. The dispute was brief, then they went their separate ways. Territories were still being determined.

Skylarks need a lot of space. Their territories vary from 0.25 to 2 hectares. At least 10 tennis courts is a space worth fighting and singing for. Their songs, delivered as they rise high into the sky, have inspired poets and composers. But they are also part of their territorial battles. It’s evidence of their strength and stamina which, they hope, will attract the attention of female skylarks.

If they impress a female, she could soon be nestled down on a clutch of eggs. Skylarks nest on the ground in a small hollow. The nest lined with grasses and leaves. On a place like the Common they seem so vulnerable to the unintended trampling of people, dogs and horses. For a bird that is on the UK’s red list as a species of highest conservation concern, it is remarkable that they survive here. Remarkable that there is enough undisturbed space for them to hold their territories.

I returned to my own small territory, thankful that a space for skylarks has survived so close to home.

Skylark

Amy Lewis