Author: Mark Mallalieu

New County Recorder

David Campbell has set a high standard as our County Recorder since 2020, drawing on his outstanding knowledge of birds and bird identification. He has combined this voluntary role with a very busy working life, but decided recently that the time had come to stand down. The Society is extremely grateful to him for all he has done during his tenure. David Thorns kindly agreed to take over as Recorder, effective from 1 August. David is a very experienced birdwatcher who lived in Sussex for many years before moving to France. He is well travelled overseas and has had several articles and letters published in birding publications such as Forktail, Cotinga and British Birds.

David is now back and based in Eastbourne. He has become familiar with the local birding scene and quickly established his birding credentials by finding several notable birds in the area including two firsts for the county, for which many SOS members have been most grateful. We wish him all the best in his new role and the Society will of course give him all the support he needs as he settles in.

Bird surveys on Ashdown Forest this spring and summer: free parking

If you have volunteered to do a bird survey on Ashdown Forest this spring and summer, the Conservators will allow free car parking for the purposes of the survey and for the period of the survey. If you’d like to take advantage of this, and have not already done so, please email me your car make, model and registration as soon as possible, preferably within the next few days. Please also say which survey(s) you are volunteering on. Thank you. Mark Mallalieu (

Avian Flu update

The latest guidance from the RSPB is here. This includes further information on the recent outbreaks and their devastating impact on seabirds as well as advice on how you can help, including by reporting dead waterfowl (swans, ducks, geese), any seabirds or birds of prey to Defra.

Barn Owl talk Q&A


With apologies for the slight delay (my fault!), here are the answers to the questions not dealt with directly after the talk. Terry Hallahan has kindly provided the answers and in some cases he has invited individuals to contact him. His mobile number is 07768 506126.

 Mark Mallalieu


Are there similar groups for other owl species?  If not, why only barn owls?

Sussex Barn Owl Study Group (SBOSG) actively install boxes for Tawny and Little Owls, some other regional groups do likewise, although many focus only on Barn Owls. As you saw from the talk the Barn Owl population fell significantly in the 20th Century, hence the ‘focus’. Numbers are now slowly increasing thanks to box installs and sympathetic land management. This year SBOSG will continue its Barn Owl conservation activities along with plans to install circa 20 Little Owl boxes in East Sussex.


In an exposed pole box is there a danger of the chicks overheating?

I have never experienced chicks overheating in the scores of pole boxes I have visited. Pole boxes are abundant in Lincolnshire and the fens and are monitored annually and again no reports of chicks overheating.


How high does the box need to be?

3 metres or more. Most of our installs of tree boxes are 3-4m. Boxes in barns typically higher as usually fixed on beams.


Amazing Tim – did you want landowner space offerings or only with rangers to monitor?

 Please contact me (Terry) if you wish to find out more on monitoring and to clarify the question.


How do we request an owl box for our field? We are near Bramber Castle.

Please contact Terry.


We look after a large churchyard with lots of large trees and a wildlife area. We would love an owl box. Do you think it would be suitable?

Please contact Terry.


I missed the first part of the presentation. Can I view this as a video?

Visit the SOS website or see virtual talk videos, it is there.


Can their eyes be damaged by bright lights (I mountain bike at night and see owls but worry I’ve blinded them!)?

 Owls’ eyes are sensitive to bright lights but do not worry your mountain bike lights will not permanently damage their eyes


We have some pole-mounted boxes in our area but the boxes are all broken and ruined. Would you be interested in coming to replace them? Thanks, Sam.

Please call Terry to discuss.

SOS Conservation: Helping Sussex’s Birds. Q&A and recording

SOS Conservation: Helping Sussex’s Birds, Richard Cowser, 2nd March 2022

The recording of this excellent online talk can now be watched on the SOS YouTube channel here. There were lots of great questions, which were largely answered after the talk. Two that were not dealt with, with the answers, are here.

2-3000 Dark-bellied Brent Geese/ day for 73 days is a lot of geese…  is this more than candidate SPA?

Yes, I think the 1% threshold would be 1,350.


How significant (potentially) is the Sussex Bay project?

I believe this is the restoration of inshore marine habitat, including Kelp, off Shoreham and Worthing.  Great news for the marine environment. Its direct impact on birds is less clear, but should be positive.  It is a very welcome project.


Also, there was a request for a reminder of what constitutes breeding evidence. This is given below.


  DD – Distraction-Display or injury feigning P – Pair in suitable habitat H – observation in suitable habitat
  UN – Used Nest or recent broken eggshell T – Territory holding 1+ week apart S – Singing male or breeding calls
  FL – recently Fledged young D – Display observed in habitat
  ON – Occupied Nest N – visiting probable Nest site
  FF – Faecal sac or Food carrying to nest A – Agitated behaviour suggestive of nesting
  NE – nest with eggs I – Incubation patch (mainly for ringers)
  NY – Nest with Young B – nest Building or hole excavation


SOS Virtual Talks in March

The Society is delighted to announce that, after the very popular Conference talks, there will be further SOS virtual talks next month. As we become ever more aware of the threats facing Sussex’s birds, the first talk, at 19:00 on Wed 2 March, is a very timely one by Richard Cowser on the work of the society’s conservation team. Please do join this talk and find out what you can do to help. Register here.

The next will be on Wed 30 March, when Tim Fox will talk about the work of the Sussex Barn Owl Study Group to help conserve this charismatic species. Details to follow soon under “SOS Virtual Talks”.

Great White Egrets

With increasing numbers of Great White Egrets being seen in Sussex each year, the SOS Records Committee (SOSRC) and Scientific Committee have concluded that, as from 1 January 2018, descriptions/photos of this species will not be needed to support records in any part of the county.  The Sussex Bird Report 2016 includes Great White Egret as a description species as the report went to print before the SOSRC was able to make a recommendation that took account of most 2017 records.   Although the risk of misidentification is usually small, observers are encouraged to take particular care with distant birds including those in flight.

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