Rare Birds Flock to Surrey Thanks to Trust's Conservation Work

Monday 4th December 2017

Dartford warbler - Paul RobertsDartford warbler - Paul Roberts

Some of Surrey’s rarest birds have been given a major boost following years of work by Surrey Wildlife Trust to improve their precious habitats. Populations of nightjars, Dartford warblers and woodlarks have all seen significant increases in recent species surveys.

The good news is that we are making a difference and we know what needs to be done in the future...

Carefully planned conservation work on sites including Poors Allotment, Ash Ranges and Barossa, led by the Trust’s countryside team, is having a real impact on the numbers of birds spotted on the important lowland heathland reserves.

“This is incredibly encouraging news as we can really see how all our hard work is making a vital difference to wildlife in the county,” said Ben Habgood, the Trust’s Grazing Officer.

“It represents thousands of volunteer hours cutting and clearing invasive scrub, grazing by our conservation herd, site patrols and litter picking, surveying and monitoring target species and occasional mechanical clearances. It’s been a long, hard slog, but it’s fantastic to see that some of Surrey’s most iconic birds are benefitting.”

Surveys on Ash Ranges near Woking found more than 150 pairs of Dartford warblers - the highest level since 2008, when populations were all but wiped out by cold winters. Woodlarks were at record levels, with over 40 territories recorded and nightjar numbers were also nearly at record levels, with around 70 pairs. Other species such as tree pipit, stonechat and redstart were also at their highest levels for several years. 

On Poors Allotment near Bagshot, a recent Natural England survey found the habitat to be much improved and in a ‘favourable’ condition, following years of work by the Trust alongside The Heathland Conservation Society volunteers. Nightjars and woodlarks are moving into new breeding grounds and the number of Dartford warblers has nearly doubled. 

The Trust’s work is helping wildlife across the county – 98% of the SSSIs it manages on behalf of Surrey County Council are now in favourable or recovering condition – up from just 68% when the charity began caring for the sites in 2002. 

The news of the Trust’s impact on nature in the county comes in the wake of the publication of The State of Surrey’s Nature report, which revealed that wildlife was in trouble. A third of the 4,242 species studied were either extinct in the county or under threat, including water voles, hedgehogs and great crested newts.

The Trust’s CEO Nigel Davenport said: “Sadly wildlife in Surrey is under particular threat from new building developments and pressure on the green belt but we are determined to fight nature’s corner.

“The good news is that we are making a difference and we know what needs to be done in the future. We have pinpointed the areas where we have the best chance of reversing nature’s decline. 

“But there is an awful lot of work to do. We can’t fight this battle alone. We need the people of Surrey, businesses and communities to help us – together we can achieve so much more.”

If you’d like to help wildlife where you live, why not sign up as a volunteer? For more information about all our conservation opportunities click here >>

You can also help the Trust continue its work caring for the county’s wildlife by signing up as a member. Memberships taken out before December 15th get a FREE wildlife calendar – a great idea for a Christmas present! Find out more

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Species, Volunteering