Volunteers taking action for rare heathland

Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus adult brooding chicks (bill of chick visible poking out of breast) Suffolk Sandlings Spring / summer - David Tipling/2020VISION

It’s clear that all the hard work of volunteers pays off when we received a report from Natural England this year moving Wisley and Ockham Common from ‘unfavourable recovering’ status in to favourable.

This is a huge milestone and a testament to the fact that focus and dedication is the name of the game.

For those less familiar with the site, Wisley and Ockham Commons has Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status and is also designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR). To add to that it’s part of the Special Protection Area (SPA) within the Thames Basin Heaths. It’s one of the largest remaining sites containing lowland heathland and is a rare habitat containing many protected species.

In the past, it has suffered from habitat fragmentation and from long periods of neglect. So you might say, what’s the impact? Species have struggled to move effectively throughout the site, tree cover and scrub became more dense, over shading the heather and in turn reducing the habitat that important species rely upon so much, in particular nightjar, Dartford warbler and woodlark.

Over the last 10 years volunteers have removed sizeable amounts of scrub and indeed tree cover (1 ha within last autumn/winter), along with clearing invasive plants, creating areas of bare ground and heather mowing allowing for the regeneration of heather in areas where it had previously been lost. Meaning we are starting to see a slight upturn in Annex 1 bird numbers, mostly in nightjar numbers but also a small increase in Dartford warbler by one pair over on the Ockham side.

Thank you everyone for your hard work, fantastic results! Lets hope we continue to make a positive difference.