A bird­ing walk in the shadow of the Cold War

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - PAUL TRODD

THIS FOR­MER SITE of a Royal and US Air Force base was a sym­bol of the Cold War, with its con­tro­ver­sial mis­sile si­los and re­sul­tant Women’s Peace Camp of the 1980s. How­ever, with clo­sure of the aero­drome in 1993, Green­ham and Crookham Com­mons re­verted back to com­mon land with the dig­ging up of con­crete run­ways and the restora­tion of in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant heath­land habi­tat, mak­ing it the largest heath in Berk­shire at about 500 hectares. Newly-created ponds and meres along with open ar­eas of gravel has af­forded op­por­tu­ni­ties for plovers to breed and en­abled a wide range of rare bog plants to pro­lif­er­ate, plus drag­on­flies. But it is the gorse and heather that at­tracts the most in­ter­est, with a few pairs of breed­ing Dart­ford War­bler and Stonechat, plus Tree Pipit and Wood Lark on the more bro­ken ground with scat­tered trees. At dusk, the weird ‘rod­ing’ dis­play flight of Wood­cock can be ob­served over the heath along­side ‘chur­ring’ Night­jars and hoot­ing Tawny Owls. The wood­land at­tracts the usual range of low­land birds and, as the

sum­mer pro­gresses, par­ties of Cross­bill are some­times noted. This cir­cu­lar walk takes in all the main habi­tats, but wher­ever you go a re­minder of its re­cent his­tory is not far away in the names of the trails, such as Taxi­way Walk and Run­way Cross. Where once B52 bombers rum­bled down the run­ways, there is now bird song and wide open spa­ces.

Dart­ford War­bler

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