Wildlife - Birds
You are wandering down Barnet Gate Lane and hear a beautiful high pitched burbling bird song coming from the direction of Arkley South fields. You look up but cannot quite locate where the sound is coming from. It is the song of the Skylark!
The Skylark is an iconic bird made famous by the poetry of Shelley and is evocative of the summer and of memories past:
"Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art".
These birds have been known to breed on Arkley South Fields for many years. In 1997 the London Ecology Unit estimated that there were up to 20 pairs, making it the premier site in the Borough for this species. Unfortunately, the Skylark has suffered a dramatic decline in breeding numbers across the UK of 58% during 1970-2010 (source British Trust for Ornithology).
Recent sightings have shown there to be at least a dozen pairs still breeding there, which makes it all the more important that this area is protected from development and the disturbance that would result.
The fields, hedgerows and ditches also provide good habitat for other species such as Reed Bunting, Whitethroat, Lapwing, Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Stonechat. Owls have been seen including Little Owl. In 2016, a pair of Lapwings successfully bred on this site.
Migrant birds such as Wheatear, Winchat, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and even Cuckoo stop off during their travels in spring and autumn, while in summer Swallows, House Martins and Swifts soar and dive over the fields in acrobatic displays.
Birds of prey - Kestrels, Buzzards, Red Kites and even Peregrine Falcons and Hobby (as a summer visitor) - can be seen over the open land, hunting for rodents and other prey.
All of these birds would be disturbed if a cemetery was developed on this site, and would be put at risk.
Here is a selection of photographs taken at Arkley South Fields (thanks to David Martens):