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Wealden Heaths Breeding Bird Survey (West Sussex)

Last updated in October 2016

This survey commenced as part of the project which resulted in The Thames Basin and Wealden Heath Important Bird Area (IBA) holding internationally important populations of three species (Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler listed on Annexe 1 of the EU Bird Directive). However West Sussex was not included in the subsequent IBA, although these precious fragmented heaths are of great importance. The West Sussex survey has run from 1997 and provides, for some of our heaths, a continuous wealth of data that is being used for management and assisting in conservation issues. An example is the monitoring of Lords Piece at Coates Common and the adjoining Broad Halfpenny in providing vital comparison information regarding the effects of leisure usage on breeding birds.

The survey monitors other than the aforementioned three species others of conservation concern such as Tree Pipit and Stonechat. These five species are our main quarry but the census form provided enables the individual to monitor further species such as Yellowhammer, Redstart, Linnet and other typical heathland birds. The results are produced annually in the Sussex Bird Report. A full report will appear in the 2015 Sussex Bird Report which is published in 2016. There is also a limited number of booklets available upon request providing additional maps and a brief comment on some management issues.

How can you help?

Although we have surveyors for the sites currently there often problems and we have to ask urgently for a new surveyor or a surveyor is needed to cover a heath due to illness etc. If you would like to potentially help then please contact Alan Perry (see below for contact details).

The format of the survey is as follows :

The Survey starts in mid- February, (to find the Woodlarks taking up their territories) and carries on until late June. We try to cover the individual sites entirely on four occasions, including one early visit as mentioned, and two visits (more if you have the inclination and the time), about two weeks apart during May when song activity is at its peak. There will be at least one evening visit (preferably two) in May and/or June to count Nightjar.

With the data collected we are able to estimate the total number of breeding pairs/territorial males of each species and assess the success or otherwise of these birds over a long time frame.

The heathlands we cover are as follows and those in need of surveyors are in bold with an asterisk beside them.

The heaths without surveyors are now rather marginal. Midhurst has extensive heath woodland with glades and rides and Hesworth is typical of a small heath where species do hang on despite the intense leisure usage.

Weavers Down Lavington Common & Plantation/Duncton Commons
Chapel Common Graffham Common
Linchmere and Stanley Commons Coates Common/Lords Piece
Broad Halfpenny Hesworth Common*
Midhurst Common* Blackdown
West Heath, Nr. Rogate Ambersham/Heyshott Commons
Iping/Stedham Commons  

For more information or if you wish to volunteer please contact the organiser Alan Perry on 01798 344417 or by email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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