Bird watching at Leith Hill

2019 has been a wonderful year for birds at Leith Hill Tower and countryside with abundant sightings by the migration watch team and the resident bird ringer.

Nicky Scott, National Trust Lead Ranger for Leith Hill talks us through the birding highlights for this year and how her team cares for bird habitats: ‘It has been a wonderful year for birds with abundant sightings of a wide variety of both migratory and resident species. Seeing nationally rare birds such as woodlark is now a given at the heath and is a fine reward for all the hard work that has been achieved.

‘You’ll often see birders reporting on Duke’s Warren, which is to the north-west of Leith Hill Tower and is the jewel in the crown of the property as far as species diversity is concerned. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest that has been undergoing heathland restoration since initial clearance of plantation woodland in 1987 - and it continues to be a work in progress.

‘Stonechat, Dartford warbler and nesting crossbill were confirmed. Cuckoo, wheatear, redpoll, siskin and redstart had been sighted. Perhaps the most anticipated arrival of the year is the nightjar and we were duly rewarded towards the end of May. The churring of this bird throughout the summer – and especially when seen flitting across a full moon on a warm evening - reassures me that all the hard work and resources that go into the management of a heathland have paid off. On these evenings I think that the effort has been worth it for this bird alone.

‘But by the end of the summer there had been sightings of good numbers of tree pipit, spotted and pied flycatcher, grasshopper warbler, hobby, sparrow hawk, buzzard, goshawk, kestrel, and raven, the latter constituting a striking presence around the tower. Now with the arrival of autumn and winter this stunning vantage point has already seen the passage of redwing, house martin, chaffinch, meadow pipit, osprey and ring ouzel.

‘It is thanks to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved in the management of the site, together with the dedication and observance of the regular birders, that our knowledge of resident and visiting birds continues to grow and thereby our ability to provide for them