Because there are several other better-known birdwatching locations in the Rye Bay area, relatively few birdwatchers visit the Brede Valley. Those few, however, have recorded a great variety of species. These include many species listed on the red list of the Birds of Conservation Concern because of their nationally declining populations, and some which have been declared national Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species. BAP species are now specially protected under the NERC Act (2007), and local authorities have a duty to protect and enhance their populations. In total 11 red-listed species breed regularly in the valley. All of these are also BAP species, and a further 4 BAP species occur as well. The populations of farmland birds are particularly notable. To read more about this important group, simply click on Farmland Birds.

The following red-listed and BAP species which are uncommon or absent in many other areas can still be found breeding in the valley: lapwing, turtle dove, lesser spotted woodpecker, skylark, yellow wagtail, song thrush, spotted flycatcher, marsh tit, starling, house sparrow, tree sparrow, linnet, bullfinch, reed bunting and yellowhammer. With Mediterranean gull and little egret, these species also occur on the adjacent Natura 2000 site. To find out more about the European law protecting them and Natura 2000 sites, please click on Protected Areas. You can also read further about Bird Surveys in our reviews section.

Whatever season of the year you visit the valley, there are always birds to be seen and heard. In winter the valley’s water meadows, drainage ditches, small lagoons and seasonal floods attract large flocks of wildfowl, waders and other birds. Huge numbers of teal, for instance, have been recorded on recently flooded marshland near Doleham. Marsh and hen harriers are most commonly seen in this season too. Flocks of the migrant dainty common gull wheel about and scatter over the grassland in search of food.

Throughout the year wherever there is water grey herons, cormorants, little egrets and the occasional kingfisher search for fish. A large population of mute swans feeds mainly on plants, both in water and on the farmland. In most seasons, too, the plaintive calls of the little owl can be heard, a species introduced to this country over a century ago and now well established in the valley.

In spring the vegetation that lines the drainage ditches and the course of the railway provides plentiful nesting sites for many species. The valley is alive with their song, both residents and migrants such as nightingale, whitethroat, turtle dove and sedge and reed warblers (the commonest host species of cuckoos, frequently heard in the valley in May and June). A recent newcomer, the Mediterranean gull is often seen and heard, among the commoner black-headed gulls.

The valley also supports good numbers of breeding lapwings and an expanding population of barn owls, thanks to a successful nest box scheme. Read more about it by clicking on Barn Owl Conservation. Among other commoner raptors, buzzards are frequently seen or heard during the breeding season, tawny owls, sparrowhawks and kestrels throughout the year. Late spring also brings the occasional visit by a hobby, to prey on the abundant newly emerged dragonflies and damselflies.

In high summer most birdsong fades away, just the occasional yellowhammer and reed bunting. But already the calls of autumn passage migrants begin to be heard, curlews and whimbrels on their way to southerly wintering areas. Whimbrels are similar to curlews in appearance, but smaller and with a shorter bill. They breed in the Arctic and winter in Africa. Those that regularly feed in the valley during the course of their long migrations form part of a larger flock of national importance occurring within the adjacent SSSI.

Autumn sees the departure of the last of the summer visitors, swifts and flocks of swallows and house martins among them. It also brings the first of the winter migrants, redwings and fieldfares feeding on the ripening crop of hawthorn berries in the hedgerows. Now too come the first of the wildfowl and waders, as the marshland water levels begin to rise again, with the approach of another winter.

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