HAMPSHIRE residents have been warned to watch their step as restrictions are eased and people head back outside.

Over half of England’s most threatened breeding bird species nest on, or near to the ground according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

In Hampshire, rare birds like woodlark and nightjar nest on heathland sites, often popular places to walk, cycle and picnic.

Because of the higher risk from predators, nests and eggs of birds that nest on the ground are said to be “extremely well camouflaged” and now the charity is asking residents to mind their step when returning to countryside walks.

Sara Humphrey, Communications Manager, said most people think bird’s nest in tree’s or hedges, but for some of the most threatened, this is “not true”.

She added: “Almost every natural habitat in the English countryside can be home to ground nesting birds and many of these species are under increasing pressure due habitat loss, predators and climate change.

“Yet we can all help protect them from disturbance by simply following The Countryside Code and keeping to footpaths.”

The charity is advising residents to keep themselves and animals on footpaths, pack a picnic rather than a BBQ due to fire risk, and to keep an eye out for signage.

A YouGov survey, commissioned by the RSPB, showed that in the last year, 41 percent reported seeing wildlife near their homes that they’d never seen before.

Mike Shurmer, Head of Species for RSPB England, said: “If disturbed, a chick’s instinct is often to stay quiet. If you hear an adult bird calling out in distress or see one trying to catch your attention, back away carefully.”