It was great to see the temporary fences going up recently on part of Wanstead Flats to protect the nesting skylarks.

The little birds used to be numerous on the Flats, nesting in the grass.

At this time of year, you could walk across to the sound of the singing birds, as they rose in helicopter-like ascent from the ground.

The skylark population has more than halved since the 1990s, with intensive farming and use of insecticides and weedkillers reducing the insect population and habitats.

The Flats are one of the few areas left in London where the birds breed. This is why the action of Corporation of London Epping Forest #COLEppingForest in protecting the area from March to August has been so important.

The area itself has become a magnet for migrating birds and increasingly bird watchers.

The winchats and stonechats that come in the autumn, can often be seen in the brooms area in the centre, by the skylarks. Rarer visitors like the spotted and pied flycatcher can be seen around this time as well.

More recently in the winter months, there have been redwings, fieldfares and redpoll around.

One of my favourite sights are the birds of prey (or raptors), drifting on the thermals above the Flats.

One particularly memorable sight came last August with the huge fork tailed Red Kite flying over the Flats, with a buzzard higher above for company.

Rarities like the white fronted goose can turn up for short periods, as two did by the Alexander Lake around last Christmas. Barnacle and Brent geese also sometimes appear among the more common resident Canada and Greylags geese.

There have been rarities stay for short times, such as a rustic bunting near Park Road, and a red backed shrike close to Capel and Aldersbrook Roads.

Bird watching has grown in popularity over the period of the pandemic, with increasing numbers of people venturing out with binoculars at the ready. This growing interest should also be of value in terms of increasing the number of people on the look out for endangered species like the skylark.

You can read more about the skylark and other endangered species at

Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger.