Author: Helen Crabtree

Pevensey Levels breeding bird monitoring

The Pevensey Levels breeding bird monitoring scheme is an SOS project which aims to increase the regular recording of birds across the Pevensey Levels during the breeding season and to enable the reporting of results to farmers and land managers. This increase in regular recording will be achieved through the allocation of 1×1-km squares to volunteers so that the recording is targeted in well-defined areas and to maximize coverage and reduce duplication of effort. The project will also incorporate data already being collected from three BTO Breeding Bird Survey squares on the Pevensey Levels.

The squares selected to be surveyed are those that have a reasonable level of access using public rights of way or those that have been requested by farmers or landowners to be included in the project with access permission granted to specific volunteers. There is no attempt to survey a random sample of sites because of the relatively small area of the Pevensey Levels and the simple aim of increasing regular recording rather than calculating population trends.

Volunteers should aim to visit each allocated square twice during each breeding season. The early visit should be made between early April and mid-May, and the late visit between mid-May and the end of June. On each visit volunteers should walk a transect route in the square which covers as much of the square as possible and which takes around 1 -1.5 hours at a slow methodical pace.

The squares selected to be surveyed are as follows (updated 5/4/2024):

TQ6108 White Dyke Farm ALLOCATED
TQ6109 Whelpley Sewer
TQ6110 Gildridge Farm ALLOCATED
TQ6206 Bridge Farm ALLOCATED
TQ6207 Rickney Farm
TQ6208 Horse Eye
TQ6209 New Bridge (BBS square) ALLOCATED
TQ6210 Sackville Farm ALLOCATED
TQ6306 Chilley Farm ALLOCATED
TQ6308 Hurst Haven
TQ6309 Hurst Haven North ALLOCATED
TQ6310 Cherry Croft Farm ALLOCATED
TQ6407 Pylons Farm
TQ6608 Horse Bridge (BBS square) ALLOCATED
TQ6609 Waterhouse Farm
TQ6710 Hogtrough Bridge
TQ6806 Hooe Level ALLOCATED
TQ6807 Old Road Farm (BBS square) ALLOCATED
TQ6808 Court Lodge ALLOCATED
TQ6906 Crooked Ditch
TQ6908 near Hooe village ALLOCATED

If you are interested in taking on one of the unallocated squares listed above please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com for further information and instructions. If you live nearby and know landowners such that you are able to access a square on the Pevensey Levels that is not listed above then please also contact Helen and this square can be added to the scheme. Please contact Helen with any questions or comments about this project.

BTO Breeding Bird Survey 2024: squares available

There is still time to sign up to take part in the BTO Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) for this coming breeding season. Some squares have recently become available and there are plenty of squares available right across the county; some of these squares are accessible if you have limited mobility or if you are reliant on or choose to use public transport.

This national monitoring scheme is administered by the BTO and jointly funded by the BTO, JNCC and RSPB. It has been running since 1994 and its primary aim is to provide population trends for common and widespread bird species in the UK. Population trends for Sussex are also produced and published in the Sussex Bird Report. Survey plots are randomly-selected 1-km squares of the National Grid, and the same squares are surveyed each year. Volunteers visit their squares three times each year during the breeding season, once to record simple habitat data, and twice to walk a fixed route, recording birds seen and heard. There are more than 200 BBS squares across Sussex, covering every type of habitat, and new volunteers are always needed.

Volunteers must be able to recognise common and widespread birds by sight and sound, and must be able to physically get around a survey route reasonably early in the morning, but beyond those requirements absolutely anybody is welcomed into this survey scheme. Previous experience of survey work is not necessary and help and support from experienced volunteers can be arranged if required. Finally there is no requirement to conduct surveys alone – take a friend with you!

The full list of BBS squares (asterisks indicate priority squares that have been surveyed before) in Sussex which currently need volunteers for the 2024 breeding season (updated 1/5/2024) is as follows:

SU7907 near Funtington*
SU8527 near Milland*
SU8615 Westdean Woods*
SU8718 near Cocking*
SU9113 near East Dean*
SU9729 near Northchapel*
SU9923 near Petworth*
SZ7996 East Wittering*
SZ8199 near Birdham
TQ0124 near Kirdford*
TQ0322 near Codmore Hill*
TQ0826 Billingshurst
TQ1004 Durrington*
TQ1323 Dragon’s Green*
TQ2536 Gossops Green
TQ2638 Langley Green*
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4716 near Isfield*
TQ4821 Uckfield*
TQ4938 near Blackham*
TQ5026 High Hurstwood
TQ5128 near Crowborough*
TQ5211 near Golden Cross*
TQ5220 Blackboys*
TQ5228 near Crowborough*
TQ5435 near Eridge Station*
TQ5639 Tunbridge Wells*
TQ6817 near Penhurst
TQ7624 near Bodiam
TQ7811 Hollington*
TQ8518 near Udimore*

The following BBS squares may be accessible to you if you have limited mobility (including using a wheelchair) as the survey routes are entirely on pavements and minor roads:

SZ7996 East Wittering
TQ2638 Langley Green
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ5639 Tunbridge Wells

The following BBS squares may be accessible by train as they are close to rail stations (other squares may be easily accessible by bus):

TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4821 Uckfield
TQ5435 near Eridge Station

For further information, please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com. Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions about the survey or about any of the available squares.

BTO Breeding Bird Survey: practice sessions 2024

Some informal practice sessions are planned this year in Sussex for the BTO/RSPB/JNCC Breeding Bird Survey and anybody who is considering taking part in the BBS is welcome to come along to one of the sessions. Anybody of any age is welcome and young people are especially welcome although under-18s must be accompanied by an adult. The planned dates are:

1. Saturday 9th March at the Knepp Estate (Dave Boddington);
2. Saturday 16th March at Pulborough Brooks RSPB (Helen Crabtree);
3. Friday 22nd March in Burgess Hill (Helen Crabtree);
4. Sunday 24th March at Lewes Railway Land (Nevil Hutchinson);
5. Wednesday 27th March in Arundel town (Helen Crabtree);
6. Saturday 6th April at Sedlescombe village (East Sussex) (Christine George).

The aims of these morning outdoor sessions will be (1) to give confidence to new and nearly-new BBS volunteers, (2) to sort out any problems that volunteers may have with the BBS and to provide a chance for volunteers to ask questions about the survey, and (3) to give everybody involved a chance to meet and socialise with other BBS volunteers. Anybody attending who does not currently take part in the BBS should be able to find out what is involved and then hopefully sign up for a square.

Please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com if you would like to attend one of these training sessions/social meet-ups, and you will be sent further details nearer the time.

BTO Winter Gull Survey (WinGS)

The BTO will be running a Winter Gull Survey (WinGS) over this winter and next winter (2023-24 and 2024-25) with the primary aim of obtaining new population estimates for the principal species that winter in the UK and assessing how populations have changed since the last survey in 2003/04–2005/06. The results of this survey will also help to assess the impact of the ongoing outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) on gull populations. The survey will involve coordinated visits to key roost sites and additional visits to sample stretches of coastline and sample squares inland, with visits to key sites prioritised for January 2024. Visits to sample sites and outstanding key sites will then be prioritised for January 2025, with supplementary counts also proposed for the autumn in 2024. Further information about taking part can be found at https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/winter-gull-survey/taking-part.

The date for surveys this winter is 21 January 2024 with surveys acceptable a few days either side of this date.

Key sites in Sussex for which volunteers are needed are listed below (updated 11/1/2024); please contact the organisers listed below for more information. Sites can also be selected online after registering at https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/winter-gull-survey.

Chichester Harbour: please contact Peter Hughes at peter.hughes@conservancy.co.uk.

Coastal Sussex: please contact Dave Boddington at davebodds@yahoo.co.uk.
Pagham Harbour
Aldwick
Climping
Littlehampton ALLOCATED
Rustington
East Preston
Ferring
Goring-by-Sea
West Worthing
East Worthing
Lancing
Shoreham Beach ALLOCATED
Southwick Beach ALLOCATED
Hove ALLOCATED
Brighton Marina ALLOCATED
Newhaven Harbour ALLOCATED
Newhaven Tidemills ALLOCATED
Seven Sisters/Birling Gap
Pevensey Bay ALLOCATED
Bexhill-on-Sea
St. Leonards

Inland Sussex: please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com.
Ardingly Reservoir ALLOCATED
Weirwood Reservoir ALLOCATED
Barcombe Reservoir ALLOCATED
Arlington Reservoir ALLOCATED
Darwell Reservoir ALLOCATED
Bewl Water ALLOCATED

Annual breeding woodcock monitoring 2024

New volunteers in Sussex are being sought to help to monitor national breeding woodcock numbers. Annual monitoring of roding woodcocks has taken place at a number of sites across the UK each year since 2003; a summary of the results can be found at http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/woodcock-survey/results.

Three visits to a site are required between 1st May and 30th June, commencing 15 minutes before sunset and lasting a total of 75 minutes. For each visit a volunteer remains at a designated point and counts the number of times that roding birds are seen or heard. Full details, including survey methods, can be found at http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/woodcock-survey.

Listed below (updated 18/3/2024) are sites that have been surveyed previously and where roding woodcocks are likely to be encountered; if you are interested in conducting surveys at one of these sites please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com. Also listed are sites that are already being monitored by existing volunteers. Sites not listed below can also be monitored if they are thought to hold breeding woodcocks; please contact Helen Crabtree with a grid reference and a site name if you are interested in conducting surveys at another site. Although the surveys are conducted at designated points, the sites are 1-km squares, and counting points should be separated by at least 1 km to avoid double-counting of roding birds.

SU8128 Chapel Common
SU8211 Bow Hill
SU8516 Westdean Woods
SU8525 Woolbeding Common ALLOCATED
SU8529 Stanley Common
SU8626 Woolbeding Common
SU9119 Ambersham Common ALLOCATED
SU9129 Blackdown ALLOCATED
SU9418 Lavington Common ALLOCATED
SU9518 Duncton Common ALLOCATED
SU9523 Upperton Common ALLOCATED
SU9727 Ebernoe Common ALLOCATED
SU9807 Rewell Wood
SU9906 Tortington Common
TQ0523 Adversane ALLOCATED
TQ0615 Northpark Wood ALLOCATED
TQ1229 Itchingfield ALLOCATED
TQ2130 St Leonard’s Forest ALLOCATED
TQ2233 Holmbush Forest ALLOCATED
TQ2429 Warren Wood
TQ3034 Worthlodge Forest ALLOCATED
TQ3327 River’s Wood (Balcombe) ALLOCATED
TQ4230 Chelwood
TQ4233 Broadstone Warren ALLOCATED
TQ4332 Ashdown Park ALLOCATED
TQ4432 Ashdown Ridge ALLOCATED
TQ4528 Marlpits ALLOCATED
TQ4530 Pippingford Park
TQ4626 Fairwarp ALLOCATED
TQ4627 Duddleswell ALLOCATED
TQ4630 Old Lodge ALLOCATED
TQ4732 Wrens Warren ALLOCATED
TQ4828 Poundgate ALLOCATED
TQ5223 Waste Wood (Hadlow Down) ALLOCATED
TQ5431 Hornshurst Wood (Rotherfield) ALLOCATED
TQ5526 Walsted Wood ALLOCATED
TQ5536 Broadwater Warren
TQ5732 Saxonbury Hill
TQ5736 Hargate Forest
TQ6217 Rushlake Green ALLOCATED
TQ7920 Brede High Wood ALLOCATED
TQ8020 Brede High Wood ALLOCATED
TQ8121 Chitcombe ALLOCATED
TQ8521 Beckley Woods ALLOCATED

Please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com if you have questions about this survey or would like more information.

Arun to Adur farmland bird monitoring event

An event is being planned for Saturday 3 February 2024 that will bring together volunteer birdwatchers and farmers within the Arun to Adur Farmers Group. The intention is that volunteers will go out in small groups with farmers at a central location (to be confirmed but within the Arun to Adur area) and help to increase the confidence of the farmers in identifying and counting the farmland birds present. After a morning spent looking for birds the plan will be to then meet back with other volunteers and farmers for some networking and food. Hopefully some useful connections will be made and volunteers will optionally be able to make arrangements to meet farmers at other farms on later dates to help them to complete the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count.

If you would be interested in meeting some farmers and sharing your bird knowledge with them then please come along!  Please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com if you would like to attend and you will be sent details of the meeting time and place.

BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey: squares available

This is a good time of the year to consider taking part in the BTO Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), because if you take on a square you will also have the option to take part in the Sussex Winter Bird Survey (SWBS) by surveying the same square over the coming winter, beginning on 1 November 2023. Some squares have recently become available and there are plenty of squares available right across the county; some of these squares are accessible if you have limited mobility or if you are reliant on or choose to use public transport.

This national monitoring scheme is administered by the BTO and jointly funded by the BTO, JNCC and RSPB. It has been running since 1994 and its primary aim is to provide population trends for common and widespread bird species in the UK. Population trends for Sussex are also produced and published in the Sussex Bird Report. Survey plots are randomly-selected 1-km squares and the same squares are surveyed each year. Volunteers visit their squares three times each year during the breeding season, once to record simple habitat data, and twice to walk a fixed route, recording birds seen and heard. There are more than 200 BBS squares across Sussex, covering every type of habitat, and new volunteers are always needed.

Volunteers must be able to recognise common and widespread birds by sight and sound, and must be able to physically get around a survey route reasonably early in the morning, but beyond those requirements absolutely anybody is welcomed into this survey scheme. Previous experience of survey work is not necessary and help and support from experienced volunteers can be arranged if required; there will also be some informal practice sessions arranged in Sussex in March and April 2024. Finally there is no requirement to conduct surveys alone – take a friend with you!

The BBS squares (asterisks indicate priority squares that have been surveyed before) in Sussex which currently need volunteers for the 2024 breeding season are (updated 2/1/2024):

SU7800 near West Itchenor
SU8102 near Bosham Hoe*
SU8307 near West Stoke*
SU8527 near Milland*
SU8605 central Chichester*
SU8612 West Dean
SU9113 near East Dean*
SU9207 near Boxgrove*
SU9729 near Northchapel*
SU9923 near Petworth*
SZ7996 East Wittering*
SZ8199 near Birdham
TQ0124 near Kirdford*
TQ0205 near Lyminster*
TQ0322 near Codmore Hill*
TQ0826 Billingshurst
TQ1337 Okewood Hill (Surrey)*
TQ2022 Cowfold*
TQ2536 Gossops Green
TQ2638 Langley Green*
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4612 near Ringmer*
TQ4716 near Isfield*
TQ4821 Uckfield*
TQ4938 near Blackham*
TQ5026 High Hurstwood
TQ5128 near Crowborough*
TQ5130 central Crowborough
TQ5220 Blackboys*
TQ5228 near Crowborough*
TQ5312 Golden Cross*
TQ5435 near Eridge Station*
TQ5511 Lower Dicker*
TQ5523 near Hadlow Down*
TQ5738 Tunbridge Wells*
TQ5901 Willingdon*
TQ6419 Earl’s Down*
TQ7111 near Ninfield*
TQ7624 near Bodiam
TQ7811 Hollington*
TQ8518 near Udimore*
TV5797 near East Dean*

The following BBS squares may be accessible to you if you have limited mobility (including using a wheelchair) as the survey routes are entirely on pavements and minor roads:

SU8605 central Chichester
SZ7996 East Wittering
TQ2638 Langley Green
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4612 near Ringmer
TQ5130 central Crowborough
TQ5639 Tunbridge Wells
TQ5901 Willingdon

The following BBS squares may be accessible by train as they are close to rail stations (other squares may be easily accessible by bus):

SU8605 central Chichester
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4821 Uckfield
TQ5130 central Crowborough
TQ5738 Tunbridge Wells
TQ5901 Willingdon

For further information, please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com.

Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS): sites vacant

The new WeBS season starts in September and there are sites across Sussex that need new volunteers; now is a really good time to get started with this survey.

WeBS is the principal monitoring scheme for non-breeding waterbirds in the UK which aims to provide data for the conservation of their populations and wetland habitats. The data collected are used to assess the size of waterbird populations, assess trends in numbers and distribution, and identify and monitor important sites for waterbirds.

Once-monthly, synchronised counts are carried out (primarily September to March) at as many wetland sites as possible. Counts can take anything from 15 minutes to 3 hours depending on the size of the site. Dates of the counts are pre-determined by the BTO and are set on Sundays. It is generally accepted that a count can be carried out a day or more either side of these dates if counters have other commitments and there is not an interchange of species with other neighbouring sites.

Sites requiring new volunteers are listed below (updated 16/11/2023). For further information please contact:

ARUN VALLEY: Helen Crabtree (hcrabtree@gmail.com)

Pulborough Brooks (to join existing team): counts carried out each month on a Monday morning

COASTAL SITES: Dave Boddington ( davebodds@yahoo.co.uk)

Cuckmere Valley (between Exceat Bridge and Charleston Reedbed)
East Hastings Beach
Norman’s Bay
Shinewater Lake (Eastbourne)

INLAND SITES: Helen Crabtree (hcrabtree@gmail.com)

Bewl Water (to join existing team)
Glynleigh Level (Pevensey Levels)
Manxey Level  (Pevensey Levels)
Manxey Moat  (Pevensey Levels)
Mark Dyke  (Pevensey Levels)
Marsh Foot and Church Farm (Pevensey Levels)
Old Haven  (Pevensey Levels)
Wallers Haven North (Pevensey Levels)
Wakehurst Place Lakes

These and other more minor vacant sites are all viewable on the map here.

BTO Breeding Bird Survey and optional butterfly surveys

Volunteers with Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) squares have the option to survey their squares for butterflies during July and August, as part of the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) which is a collaboration between the BTO and Butterfly Conservation. Volunteers taking on new squares now can take part in the WCBS and then have the option to survey their squares over the winter for the Sussex Winter Bird Survey before breeding bird surveys begin next April.

The BBS is a national monitoring scheme administered by the BTO and jointly funded by the BTO, JNCC and RSPB. It has been running since 1994 and its primary aim is to provide population trends for common and widespread bird species in the UK.

Survey plots are randomly-selected 1-km squares of the National Grid, and the same squares are surveyed each year. Volunteers visit their squares three times each year during the breeding season, once to record simple habitat data, and twice to walk a fixed route, recording birds seen and heard. There are more than 150 BBS squares across Sussex, covering every type of habitat, and new volunteers are always needed.

Volunteers must be able to recognise common and widespread birds by sight and sound, but previous experience of survey work is not necessary. Help and support from experienced volunteers can be arranged if required.

For the WCBS, volunteers walk their usual BBS routes and record butterflies. Volunteers must be able to recognise common butterfly species but no special expertise is required.

The BBS squares (asterisks indicate priority squares that have been surveyed before) in Sussex which currently need volunteers are (updated 30/6/2023):

SU7604 Thorney Island*
SU7800 near West Itchenor
SU7808 near Woodmancote*
SU8102 near Bosham Hoe*
SU8307 near West Stoke*
SU8527 near Milland*
SU8605 central Chichester*
SU8612 West Dean
SU8624 Tote Hill near Midhurst
SU9207 near Boxgrove*
SU9729 near Northchapel*
SZ7996 East Wittering*
SZ8199 near Birdham
SZ8696 Pagham Harbour*
SZ8698 Sidlesham*
TQ0124 near Kirdford*
TQ1337 Okewood Hill (Surrey)*
TQ2022 Cowfold*
TQ2122 Cowfold*
TQ2536 Gossops Green
TQ2638 Langley Green*
TQ2828 Staplefield*
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4612 near Ringmer*
TQ4821 Uckfield*
TQ4938 near Blackham*
TQ5026 High Hurstwood
TQ5128 near Crowborough*
TQ5130 central Crowborough
TQ5220 Blackboys*
TQ5228 near Crowborough*
TQ5312 Golden Cross*
TQ5435 near Eridge Station*
TQ5523 near Hadlow Down*
TQ5738 Tunbridge Wells*
TQ5829 near Mark Cross*
TQ5901 Willingdon*
TQ6419 Earl’s Down*
TQ7111 near Ninfield*
TQ7811 Hollington*
TQ8518 Udimore*
TV5797 near East Dean*

For further information, please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com.

BTO/GWCT breeding woodcock survey 2023

There is still time to sign up to take part in the full national survey of breeding woodcock running in 2023 organised by the BTO with the GWCT as partners. The last full national survey of breeding woodcock was in 2013. Indications from annual monitoring since 2013 suggest that the population may have decreased. The 2023 survey will help to provide the best possible assessment of the population status, as well as further helping to understand the causes of the population decline and also to inform the woodcock shooting policy review.

This survey will require two or three dusk visits to selected sites in May and June to make point counts of roding woodcock. Please see the report here about the results of the 2013 survey in Sussex for information about the survey methods. In 2023 there are some changes to the method of habitat recording but the method of counting encounters with roding woodcock will remain exactly the same.

Priority sites are those that were surveyed in 2013 and those for which volunteers are being sought are listed below (updated 4/5/2023). The survey involves counting woodcock encounters from a fixed point which should be chosen within or on the edge of the largest area of woodland within or close to the square.

SU8811 Charleton Down: this includes parts of Goodwood Country Park
SU9115 Eastdean Wood: part of a large wooded area above Graffham Down
SU9119 Ambersham Common
TQ4032 Hindleap
TQ4131 Wych Cross
TQ4427 Nutley
TQ4429 Marlpits
TQ4629 Camp Hill
TQ4631 Gills Lap
TQ4729 near Camp Hill
TQ4932 Marden’s Hill
TQ5031 Crowborough Common
TQ5736 Hargate Forest
TQ7623 Lordship Wood: this is a large mixed forest just east of Robertsbridge
TQ8521 Beckley Woods
TQ8614 Guestling Wood

If you would like more information or are interested in helping with this project please contact Helen Crabtree at hcrabtree@gmail.com or select a site online at https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/woodcock-survey where there are more squares available than the priority sites listed above.

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