Since the City of London Council took over ownership of the site some years ago, a tremendous amount of work has been done to maintain the habitat as heath land and to revert some of the wooded areas back to heath land. Although not large, the site does now offer a reasonable sized area for heath land specialists and at two of these have successfully bred this year. The most significant of these is Woodlark, which although has bred here before, it has not done so in recent years. The second of these is Stonechat, which although is not uncommon in suitable habitat around the UK, it is a very rare breeder in the county.
Woodlarks were previously recorded at Stoke Common between 1997 and 2000 and also in 2010 but the last time breeding was proven was in 2000. More recently a singing bird was seen in the Spring of 2014 but there is no confirmation of any breeding attempt. This Spring a singing Woodlark was discovered in March and two birds, presumed to be a pair, were seen a week or so later. The territory was in a fairly restricted area so it was thought best not to publicise the presence of these birds at that time. A family party was then seen on 9th May with one singing male still in the area. In mid-May seven birds were present and it is thought likely to have been the breeding pair, four juveniles and another unpaired male.
Stonechats bred at Stoke Common in 1995 and then between 2000 and 2003. In 2015 a pair successfully bred at the site but there were no sightings between the end of October 2015 and early May 2016 when a pair were seen. They took up residence in one particular area but there was no proof of breeding until mid-June when juveniles were seen.
Apart from these two heath land specialists, Stoke Common holds high numbers of breeding Whitethroat as well as several pairs of the declining Willow Warbler. It can however be a hard place to bird and sometimes seems devoid of any bird life!
Congratulations and thanks to the City of London Council for these successes in restoring the site back to heath land habitat.
(Click on the photos to enlarge).