We have a fascinating range of habitats and wildlife that need our protection.

More than 300 species of bird live or visit Hengistbury Head, like the Kestrel (left) and ground-nesting Skylark (right).

    Kestrel 305x205Skylark Alan Hayden 305x205

Ground-nesting Species

Hengistbury is home to some very special species who nest on the ground. It is very important you stick to paths, and keep dogs under close control during nesting season to avoid disturbing these wonderful birds.


Skylarks are a declining species, who nest in grassland areas. Their beautiful song can be heard between the months of March and November. They have been seen to fly high up into the sky singing their song for over 30 minutes.


Nightjars are also a declining species, choosing to nest amongst the Heather in Heathland. Hard to spot as they prefer dawn and dusk, the Nightjar has some interesting folklore behind them with names like "Goat-suckers" which also is seen in their latin name Caprimulgus. You may also be lucky enough to hear them 'clapping' their wings from May-August. Generally they spend their summers in the UK and other parts of Europe, and their winters in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Amazing Journeys

Some animals overcome periods of food shortage and extreme weather by hibernating. Others embark on epic journeys to reach favourable climates where they can survive the winter or rear their young.

Many animals migrate, but this survival strategy is most highly developed in birds. Evolution has equipped them with outstanding navigation skills and energy efficient long distance flight.

Some of the birds that spend the summer with us, such as swallows (left), migrate to South Africa for our winter, almost 6000 miles away!

Every year cuckoos (right) make a round trip of about 10,000 miles between here and equatorial Africa.

   Swallow Alan Hayden 305x205cuckoo Alan Hayden 305x205

                                                            Photos by Alan Hayden

How do they do it?

We are gradually increasing our knowledge about migration but there is still a lot to learn. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are satellite-tracking cuckoos and are getting some remarkable information about their journeys.

Fuelling-up - some birds more than double their body weight before setting off.

Navigation - birds need an in-built map, compass, calendar, clock, perfect sense of direction and reliable memory; all packed into a brain the size of a pea.

They probably recognise stars, coastlines and mountains, but how they navigate over vast oceans remains a mystery. Some can detect the earth’s magnetic field and may use their senses of smell and hearing, following calls of other migrating birds.

Young birds, on their first migration, have no prior knowledge of their destination.

How do they know where to go?

Timing - breeding seasons are short so setting off on time is crucial. Weather conditions and wind direction must also be right.

Re-fuelling - Feeding grounds are visited along the way to re-fuel.

Hengistbury Head is used by passage migrants such as ospreys (right) and dunlin (left).

   Osprey Alan Hayden 305x205Dunlin Alan Hayden 305x205 

                                                            Photos by Alan Hayden

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