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South Downs farmland bird monitoring: new volunteers needed

The South Downs farmland bird monitoring project started in 2014 as part the South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative. The project is a collaboration between the RSPB, Natural England, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), the BTO, the South Downs Land Management Group and the Sussex and Hampshire Ornithological Societies. The project combines data from the BTO Breeding Bird Survey with additional data from randomly-distributed squares within the South Downs national park that are surveyed annually in the breeding season. The South Downs Farmland Bird Initiative is a wider project which involves working with farmers and landowners to provide the ‘Big 3’ for farmland birds: safe nesting areas, summer feeding areas and winter feeding areas. Focusing on lapwing, grey partridge and corn bunting, the habitat created also benefits other bird species such as skylark, linnet and yellowhammer, as well as other farmland wildlife including brown hares, rare arable plants and bumblebees. The monitoring project will hopefully help to measure the effectiveness of this work across the South Downs national park.

Last winter for the first time volunteers conducted winter surveys of their allocated BBS and other randomly-distributed squares, with the aim of investigating numbers of birds using farmland in the winter. This coming winter these surveys will be repeated and new volunteers are being sought now to take on squares across the South Downs. Only one winter survey will be required in each square during the period 1 November to 31 January.

The methods used and the results obtained during the period 2014-2019 (including the results of the winter surveys) are described here.

The available squares to be surveyed in Sussex are listed below (updated 24/9/2020), and the survey instructions are available here. If you are interested in taking on one of these squares for this project, or if you would like further information, please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com or on 01444 441687.

SU7721 Goose Green
SU8023 Rogate
SU8221 near Trotton
SU8426 Milland
SU8518 Bepton
SU8723 Woolbeding
SU9023 near Easebourne
SU9126 near Lickfold
SU9421 near Tillington
SU9619 Coultershaw Bridge
TQ0013 West Burton
TQ0019 Hesworth Common
TQ0710 near Wepham Down
TQ3212 Ditchling Beacon
TQ4402 near Denton

The available squares to be surveyed in Hampshire are:

SU4922 near Colden Common
SU4925 near Twyford
SU5228 Chilcomb Down
SU6227 near Bramdean
SU6422 near West Meon
SU6826 near Privett
SU6828 Basing Park
SU7121 near Butser
SU7127 Froxfield
SU7137 Chawton

The available BBS squares within the South Downs area are:

SU8624 Tote Hill
SU9017 Heyshott
SU9113 near East Dean
SU9216 Graffham Down
SU9228 near Blackdown
TQ0124 near Kirdford
TQ4806 Firle Beacon
TQ4900 Seaford