Author: Chris Brown

Welcome to the Sussex Barn Owl Group

 

Barn Owl monitoring in Sussex began in the middle of the last century through the efforts of the late Barrie Watson. 3,346 Barn Owls were marked using his rings. In 2019, our group was formed by Barrie, Terry Hallahan, and Stuart Card, and it is now home to a dedicated team of volunteers, including professional ecologists, ornithologists, biologists, and conservationists, as well as enthusiastic birders. Together we are committed to the preservation and protection of Sussex’s owl population.

  • We monitor over 250 Barn Owl boxes across Sussex each year.
  • Through our active installation of nest boxes in strategic locations, we have not only stabilised but also contributed to the growth of the Sussex Barn Owl population.
  • With over 90% of Barn Owls in the UK now using nest boxes, our efforts have had a significant impact on their conservation.
  • Beyond Barn Owls: While our focus is primarily on Barn Owls, we also install and monitor boxes for other bird species, including Tawny Owls, Little Owls, and Kestrels. Many of these boxes have been successfully occupied, resulting in the raising of broods, and furthering our conservation objectives.

 

Why not join us?

  • Whether you’re a seasoned conservationist or simply passionate about the welfare of owls and birds of prey, we welcome you to join us!
  • If you’re a resident of Sussex and share our commitment to conservation, we’d love to hear from you.
  • If you own land with habitat suitable to support breeding raptors, or have seen owls in your local area, please get in touch.

 

Volunteer opportunities

Consider volunteering with us to help install and monitor nest boxes, contributing directly to the conservation efforts in your local community.
No experience is necessary – just a love for wildlife and a willingness to make a difference!

Join us today: Become part of our passionate team dedicated to the conservation of owls and birds of prey in Sussex.

Find out more here on Facebook or email us at: info@sussexbarnowlgroup.org

 

 

Young Birders’ Support Scheme

Earlier in the year, we launched the Young Birders’ Support Scheme, to encourage the next generation to develop an interest in birding. The Scheme offers funding up to £500 for equipment, field guides, training and travel costs.

The first seven successful applicants have now been selected. Aged between 18 and 24, these young men and women all impressed us with their enthusiasm: some are keen to learn more about ringing and taking part in surveys, others wanted to improve their identification skills (by sight and sound) and most asked for help with funding courses. SOS is planning to host two training days to cover these topics, with the first one, on bird identification, taking place in June. We will also be covering costs of courses run by BTO and Field Studies Council, as requested.

We have provided binoculars, scopes and field guides to several of the applicants, who have all been keen to let us know of the feedback they will provide to show how they have used the support we have provided.

We will be accepting further applications later in the year, with a closing date of 1st October.

Thanks to Opticron for their generous sponsorship of the scheme.

Neighbourhood Survey Initiative

In recent years, the Sussex Ornithological Society has worked hard to protect good places for birds from being damaged or built on, and to make district plans more sensitive to wildlife. Often acting in partnership with the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT), RSPB and other conservation charities, we’ve had some successes in preventing harm to wildlife habitats. The flip side of this coin would be to partner with some of the many exciting local projects underway to enhance the wildlife habitats in the Sussex countryside. And that is exactly what we now want to do – through you, our members.

You might be surprised by how many of these projects there are, ranging from those covering just a few acres to several thousand. There are many underway through the Wilder Horsham District initiative alone through a partnership between the District Council and SWT. Some members have been helping landowners with bird and other wildlife surveys across the county for a long time and you may have read about bird survey work with farmers between the Arun and Adur and on Pevensey Levels.

Would you like to participate in an expansion of this effort? If so, please let us know. Here are some immediate options:

  1. The SWT is looking for volunteers who can help with bird surveys and training others to do bird surveys, in the Horsham District and on some SWT reserves including Rye Harbour.
  2. Natural England is looking for help with bird surveys at Kingley Vale.
  3. The Arun to Adur Farmers Group would welcome help with bird surveys.
  4. We have a request to help survey the birds on a farm near Hartfield.

Wherever you live, do let us know if you are interested in getting involved and we’ll try to connect you with a local project. We’ve called this the Neighbourhood Survey Initiative to encourage a low carbon footprint, though you may of course have low carbon options for travelling longer distances.

We hope that you will prioritise national surveys through the BTO and others, and the SOS species surveys (Corn Bunting in 2024) as well as our winter survey, but if you have space for this additional local effort that would be much appreciated and hopefully very rewarding. Importantly, it may also give SOS access to some private sites that would otherwise have few bird records.

If you are interested, including in the requests mentioned above, or would like to know more, please contact me at in the first instance at Adam@red-inc.com. This year, 2024, is very much a trial year, and we want to learn as much as we can about how to make the initiative a success.

If you’ve already been active in this kind of work using your personal contacts with landowners and land managers, do please let us know, so that the Society can build up a picture of the number and range of activities that members have been engaged in.

Thank you.

Adam Huttly

SOS Neighbourhood Survey Initiative

20 March 2024

SOS AGM – Saturday April 13th

Members are reminded that the 2024 AGM will take place on Saturday 13 April (not the 20 April as advised in the 2024 programme).

It will be held at The Adastra Hall in Hassocks with a 2.30 start. After the AGM and a refreshment break there will be a presentation on the currently ongoing Downs to Sea project including the regeneration of the Ferry Pond at Pagham, the Society has committed funds to this project and we thought it would be interesting to see how things are progressing.

All members are welcome, please contact Alan Swetmansecretary@sos.org.uk – for any further information.

Robert Greenhalf paintings

SOS member and Member of the Society of Wildlife Artists, Robert Greenhalf, has produced many fine illustrations over the years for the Sussex Bird Report. You will see from your spring newsletter that he has very kindly donated three lovely original watercolour paintings as featured in the 2022 Report, and now is your chance to own one. They are:

Curlews & Lapwing (p5, 15 x 21cm)

 

Avocets & Wigeon (p18, 15 x 21 cm)

 

Redshanks (p292, 12 x 18cm).

 

They are on artist’s paper/card (unmounted), and we invite bids (suggested minimum £40 each) for these.

Email Val Bentley on chetsford@talk21.com or ring 01273 494723 before 6th April with your offers!

SOS Corn Bunting Survey

Corn Bunting © Pete Hughes

 

SOS are appealing for volunteers to get involved in this year’s Corn Bunting survey.

There are over 100 2km squares (tetrads) to choose from and the survey website is here: https://sussexcornbunting.birdsurvey.org.uk/

If anyone wants to learn (or be reminded of!) the Corn Bunting song or get familiar with what they look like, a currently very good and accessible site is just west of Chantry Post car park or just east of Kithurst Hill car park, at TQ 08095 12224 (what3words: screamed.recover.imprinted) where there is still a wintering flock of at least 50 Corn Buntings and several birds singing regularly right alongside the public right of way.

I would also ask anyone who encounters Corn Buntings in Sussex over the next few months to record them onto Birdtrack with a precise location so we can build an accurate picture of their distribution and numbers.

Peter Hughes.

Mya Bambrick’s Webinar is now on YouTube

Enthusiastic young birder, SOS Council member and social media inflencer Mya Bambrick challenged herself to do 21 walks for wildlife before her 21st birthday and raise £2,100 for the British Trust for Ornithology.

This is a recording of a webinar Mya presented for Sussex Ornithological Society in February 2024. Mya covers the highlights of the 21 walks that cover some of the best places for wildlife in the UK. She talks about her other work with various organisations and how she got involved in birding after being enthused from a very young age.

There’s a great question and answer session following the presentation, chaired by Jack Thompson, SOS member and RSPB Conservation Officer.

21 Walks for Wildlife

HONEY-BUZZARDS AND GOSHAWKS IN SUSSEX

Following extensive consultation, including with the RSPB Crime Monitoring Unit, the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, neighbouring ornithological societies and our membership, the Sussex Ornithological Society (SOS) decided in 2022 that the time had come to be more open about some of the sites in the county where there is a chance of seeing Honey-buzzards and Goshawks in areas where they may breed.

For Goshawk, the decision was reasonably straightforward as the species is now doing well in Sussex, with 50-60 pairs breeding annually and the population probably still increasing. Honey-buzzards are much less numerous, but Sussex has perhaps the largest population of any county in the UK, with 20 pairs found in 2023. Three viewpoints for the species have been made public in counties with many fewer pairs and an assessment of risk concluded that some sites and viewpoints in Sussex could also be made public, subject to meeting certain criteria.

The just published ‘Where to Watch birds in Surrey and Sussex’ by Matt Phelps and Ed Stubbs includes a number of sites and viewpoints for both species in Sussex. Those for Honey-buzzard in particular do not provide guaranteed sightings, in part because of the species’ often cryptic behaviour, but also because sites are not necessarily occupied every year. The sites chosen are a mix of more reliable ones and those for which more records are needed: something that the SOS hopes that the new book will encourage.

The SOS has asked the Bird News Services only to publish inland sightings of Honey-buzzards where these are from the sites and viewpoints mentioned in the book.

 

Mark Mallalieu
Chair, Scientific Committee, Sussex Ornithological Society
16 February 2024

Upcoming SOS webinars

Two engaging online sessions are now open for bookings, speeding us towards lighter, brighter days.

Join rising star in the birding world and SOS Council member Mya Bambrick, who takes us on a journey sharing her birding highlights from her recent ‘21 Walks before 21‘. This session takes place at 7.30pm on Tuesday 27th February.

This will be an engaging and informative look at birding through Mya’s lens as a young naturalist. Register here to reserve your place.

 

Are you concerned by the impact of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) on our local bird populations? Join us on Tuesday 2nd April 2024 at 7.30pm led by expert, Claire Smith, RSPB Senior Policy Officer and lead on HPAI.

Entitled ‘Population Impacts of Avian Influenza‘. Claire will be talking about her HPAI work and the steps being taken by the RSPB to mitigate the risks. Sign up here to register.

 

Q&A sessions will follow the 40 minute talks and all are most welcome.

 

 

 

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