Category: News

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 June, 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 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, 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 18/6/2024):

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*
TQ0601 East Preston*
TQ0826 Billingshurst
TQ1004 Durrington*
TQ1323 Dragon’s Green*
TQ2536 Gossops Green
TQ2638 Langley Green*
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ3319 Ditchling Common*
TQ4716 near Isfield*
TQ4821 Uckfield*
TQ4938 near Blackham*
TQ5023 Buxted*
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*

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

Grants from SOS helping Swifts and Hirundines

SOS has supported two projects in West Sussex to provide nest boxes for the birds returning to breed. Our Hirundine Champion, Paul Stevens was invited by Greening Arundel to spearhead a Bring Back Our Birds (B-BOB) campaign, which has been enthusiastically adopted by local residents, with 50 nest boxes and cups being installed in over 30 locations, with more planned for next year.

Along the coast, as part of the Wild About Clymping ‘High Flyers’ project, SOS has provided funding and advice to enable the placing of Swift boxes and House Martin cups around the village, including at the local school. The Head Teacher said : ‘This initiative means a great deal to us and aligns perfectly with our commitment to conservation and wildlife education.

SOS contributed almost £1500 towards the two projects: we were especially impressed that both involve local communities and promote interest in these welcome summer visitors.

David Stocker, Doug Hart and Paul Stevens

 

House Martins in nest box made by Paul Stevens

Restore Nature Now – London 22 June

SOS is proud to be registered as a supporter of this important initiative.

Most of the large conservation and wildlife groups are encouraging their members to attend this event. The urgent need to reverse the decline in nature, and the scale of the issue, have brought many different organisations together. The Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and WWT will be represented on a march to Parliament Square where a wide range of voices from across many organisations and societies will be demanding a brighter nature-filled future.

As our members will be only too aware, the decline in bird populations has been catastrophic, with a BTO survey showing 73 million birds lost in the past 50 years and the Government’s own figures revealing that 48% of all bird species have declined in numbers in just 5 years, from 2015 to 2020.

If you would like to lend your support to this peaceful and non party political event, further details can be found at https://www.restorenaturenow.com/.

The aims of this event are to see UK politicians show strong domestic and global nature and climate leadership by:

1. Giving a pay-rise for nature

2. Making polluters pay

3. Delivering more space for nature

4. Putting a right to a healthy environment in law

5. Ensuring fair and effective climate action

Nearer the date more details will be added to the website, with answers to frequently asked questions such as about toilet facilities, or disability access, during the day.

This will be a fully family-friendly occasion, with many children present (and lots of fun posters and costumes to amuse them!). It will be stewarded with safety and well-being in mind.

Key dates

Sat 22 June
12 noon assemble
2pm March starts
2.30pm Parliament Square

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 17/6/2024) 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*
TQ0601 East Preston*
TQ0826 Billingshurst
TQ1004 Durrington*
TQ1323 Dragon’s Green*
TQ2536 Gossops Green
TQ2638 Langley Green*
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ3319 Ditchling Common*
TQ4716 near Isfield*
TQ4821 Uckfield*
TQ4938 near Blackham*
TQ5023 Buxted*
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
TQ0601 East Preston
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):

TQ0601 East Preston
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ3319 Ditchling Common
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.

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

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