Threat to ground-nesting birds from visitor influx to New Forest
Lockdown restrictions appeared to help rare birds in the New Forest to thrive, but they have been threatened by the subsequent influx in visitors, Forestry England (FE) has warned.
FE said the quiet conditions meant birds such as the Dartford warbler and nightjar nested near empty car parks.
It said the influx of visitors since could have "dramatic effects".
A Special Protection Area, the New Forest is home to ground-nesting bird species which have been lost from other parts of the country.
Leanne Sargeant, senior ecologist at Forestry England, said the forest had been "hauntingly quiet" in late March and April but an influx of visitors to "bank holiday levels" could disturb the birds.
She said: "This has risked dramatic effects on the forest's rare birds as they had nested closer to some of the car parks and tracks in our absence.
"This disturbance can mean they give up trying to nest at all - and predators such as crows or foxes will quickly investigate if parent birds are forced to leave eggs or chicks,
"Ground-nesting birds are so difficult to spot that many people are simply unaware they are here."
Forestry England said "quieter areas" were being signposted and some car parks near sensitive habitats, including Hincheslea Moor, Shatterford and Clayhill, would remain closed into the summer.