Category: News

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

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.

SOS New Year Bird Race – Results now in!

All teams have now submitted their lists and congratulations are due to the Hot Shot Harriers (Matt Eade & Tim Squire) on finding 115 species on 1st January.  Not quite a record – that still stands with The Splash Pointers’ 123 back in 2018 – Matt was part of that team too!

In 2nd place were The Dynamic Duo (Elliot Chandler & John Thorogood) with 96 and Mike’s Mergansers (Mike Russell, Lesley Milward, Mike English & Charles Waters) were 3rd with 91.  Joint 4th with 90 were The Martlets and Whelpley Waders.

Many thanks to all teams who took part – the highest ever number of teams and participants.

There will be a more detailed report in the Spring newsletter.

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.

 

 

 

Conference Presentations now on YouTube

At the Annual Conference on 27th January there were four inspiring talks highlighting the efforts being undertaken to restore vital habitat and protect and help many different species.  For members and others who missed them on the day you can now catch up with all the presentations:

Rye Harbour https://youtu.be/wZBLUEG7vmA

Barry Yates talk on his 30 years at Rye Harbour Nature reserve detailed the ups (and downs) of species, land acquisition and conservation efforts during that time – though his personal highlight must still be the discovery of “Squeaker” the only British Least Tern which returned every year from 1983-1992!

Lewes Swifts https://youtu.be/MkbVpEcTvlU

The difficulties faced by Swifts are well known, and Mike Ramsey showed how local initiatives undertaken in Lewes by forming a Swift Group, raising awareness and taking practical action to monitor nest sites and install boxes, can really benefit the breeding population of this iconic summer visitor.

Perching Manor Farm https://youtu.be/Zg8zaJm0Djo

During the afternoon session David Ellin explained how a working commercial farm is improving habitat for farmland birds by sensitive farming, reducing pesticide use, using no drill methods and taking advantage of agri-environment schemes. The farm has seen numbers of farmland birds increase – including the return of breeding Lapwings. This family-owned farm won the FWAG National Silver Lapwing award in 2015 for its efforts.

Broadwater Warren https://youtu.be/6XWOEicfYOo

Finally one of the RSPB’s newest reserves, Broadwater Warren, has received much support from SOS, and Alan Loweth showed that the transformation of this previous conifer forest into a mosaic of heathland and wet woodland has led to breeding success for species such as Nightjars, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler. Many thanks to our Conference Organiser David Porter for arranging the event, and to all those who helped both before and during the day.

Many thanks to Jonathan (Jonno) Cook for recording and uploading these. Enjoy !

 

 

 

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 12/2/2024):

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
TQ6906 Crooked Ditch
TQ6908 near Hooe village

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

This is the time of the year 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; there are also some informal practice sessions arranged in Sussex in March and April this year. 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 19/2/2024) is as follows:

SU7800 near West Itchenor
SU8527 near Milland*
SU8605 central Chichester*
SU8612 West Dean
SU8615 Westdean Woods*
SU8718 near Cocking*
SU9113 near East Dean*
SU9207 near Boxgrove*
SU9729 near Northchapel*
SU9923 near Petworth*
SZ7996 East Wittering*
SZ8199 near Birdham
TQ0124 near Kirdford*
TQ0322 near Codmore Hill*
TQ0826 Billingshurst
TQ1337 Okewood Hill (Surrey)*
TQ2022 Cowfold*
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*
TQ5312 Golden Cross*
TQ5435 near Eridge Station*
TQ5511 Lower Dicker*
TQ5738 Tunbridge Wells*
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:

SZ7996 East Wittering
TQ2638 Langley Green
TQ2836 central Crawley
TQ4612 near Ringmer
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
TQ5738 Tunbridge Wells

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.

SOS Records Committee

The time is sadly up for three of our SOSRC members: great thanks to Bola Akinola, Chris Ball and Derek Barber who have just finished their five-year terms and are stepping down – their input and expertise shall be solely missed!

Joining the Committee from 1st January are Andrew House and Jamie Partridge

Andrew has already served on the Committee and is a well-known figure at Selsey where he is a dedicated seawatcher and editor of the ‘Selseybirder’ blog.

Jamie has a great track record at finding BBRC rarities and is passionate about bird identification, having published papers for Birdguides and Dutch Birding. Welcome both!

David Thorns.

 

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 8/2/2024) 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
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
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
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.

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