Join the Chartwell bird count
Chartwell’s black swans are well known to visitors, but are you aware of just how many other species live on or fly over the 90 acre site?
For the past five months, birder and Assistant Countryside Ranger Erik Brown has been keeping a running tally and has got to 45 different species of bird. These include Britain’s smallest - the goldcrest - and arguably the country’s brightest; the dazzling kingfisher.
Now he is seeking help from other birders with two formal bird counts in spring in a bid to establish the health of the bird population at Chartwell.
“We think we’ll get to at least 50 species on the running tally,” Erik says. “I haven’t included in the cumulative list anecdotal sightings - at the moment, I’m only recording the birds that I see myself. But people say they have seen ravens, a honey buzzard, a goosander and that they’ve heard little owls.”
Birds at risk
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) classifies British birds as green, amber or red listed. The red listed are most at risk.
Red listed birds seen at Chartwell include the coal tit, mistle thrush, redwing and song thrush. Amber listed birds, about which there are concerns, include the house martin, bullfinch, dunnock and swift.
Spotting Britain's wildlife
The running tally is useful, but spring counts are vital because they can be used to identify breeding birds, which defend their territories by singing in the spring.
“Because there is so much woodland, the RSPB has advised us to use spot counts,” Erik says. “That’s where a birder walks to a pre-defined spot, allows time for the birds to settle and then records all of the birds around that spot in a given period - up to about 20 minutes. Then the birder moves to another pre-defined spot and repeats the exercise.”
" Climate change is making some birds more vulnerable. We have to do what we can to make life easier for them"
Erik has already shown a couple of members of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) - including one who ‘rings’ birds - around the site. He's also arranged for the RSPB’s South-East Woodlands Advisor, Dr Richard Black, to visit the site for a woodland assessment.
Meanwhile, Chartwell’s Countryside Ranger Fraser Williamson and his team of volunteers are managing the woodland to encourage birdlife: widening rides, creating glades, helping create habitat with ‘brash’ - foliage and small branches - and building nest boxes for rainy days.