A group of Steyning birdwatchers has been meeting once a month to carry out an informal survey of birds on the Downland Scheme. The group started in 2012 and has been recording its sightings on Birdtrack, the BTO/RSPB national bird record database. We started with the expectation that we might see as many as 50 species of birds, but passed that total quite early on and now the tally stands at an incredible 83 species. Part of the reason for this is the wide variety of habitats in the area. There is a mixture of woodland, grassland, scrub and hedgerows, ponds and a stream including a lot of the important ‘edge habitat’, transitions between woodland and grassland which give the combination of feeding, nesting sites, cover, and song post resources that are needed by so many species.
The ‘top 20’ most frequently recorded species includes many familiar UK residents that you might be lucky enough to see in your garden. The list includes Greenfinch, Yellowhammer, Long-tailed tit, Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. The last two we used to think of as summer visitors, but they occur often enough in the winter period to make it into the top 20.
Birds that tend to make exclusive use of the woodlands include Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Marsh tit, while Moorhen and Mallard tend to be confined to the ponds. The area around the ponds has seen some of our most exciting birds including a Bittern and the elusive Water Rail. The ponds have also attracted Teal and Gadwall.
We are still adding new species. The latest was Stonechat, quite a common species in Sussex, so a surprise that it had taken so long for the first one to turn up. A pair seem to have taken up winter residence on the north side of the rifle range.
If you would like to see the full list of birds we have seen in the last three years follow the links   .
We meet on the second Sunday of the month in Mill Lane near the Tennis Courts, shortly after dawn and take a slow walk around the area, noting down the birds we see. We welcome beginners as well as experienced birdwatchers to the group. If you wish to take part you need to be fit enough to negotiate the steep slopes and often muddy tracks of the Downland Scheme. Binoculars and stout footwear essential.
Please contact Bob Platt 01903 812404 firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm arrangements.