by Dr Matthew Denny

Many of the species that occur in the Brede Valley rely on various types of farmland. The mosaic of grazing marsh, orchards, wetlands and arable land in the Brede Valley results in a mixed farming regime which is rare in the modern British landscape. Many species of farmland birds that have undergone dramatic declines in the UK still find a stronghold in the valley.

Tree sparrow
This hole-nesting farmland species has declined by 95% in the UK over the past 25 years. Their chestnut caps and black cheek spots distinguish them from their more familiar house sparrow cousins, but they are very secretive and often only their sharp ‘chip, chip’ call gives away their presence. The Brede Valley holds the last persistent breeding tree sparrow colony in Sussex and is one of its strongholds in southeast England. There are approximately 15 pairs in the valley. Sussex Ornithological Society is assisting landowners in the valley to maintain this population by funding provision of nest boxes and winter seed crops, with further generous contributions from Messrs Jacobi Jayne. Over 100 nest boxes have been installed throughout the valley, and it is hoped that the current colony will expand to fill them. Recent research by the RSPB suggests that breeding tree sparrows do best when nesting near wetland, so the wetland habitat improvements in the valley should assist this species.

This familiar wading bird has declined in Britain. The recent creation of wetland habitats in the Brede Valley has encouraged the breeding population of lapwing to increase, and the valley now supports one of the largest populations in the county. In total the valley supports 20-25 pairs. The lapwing has recently been added to the BAP list. Large flocks of lapwing start to build up as birds which have bred elsewhere come and feed on the sheep-grazed pasture, possibly attracted by the abundant sheep flukes. Numbers of lapwing peak in October, when over 1500 can be present in one flock. When disturbed, a flock like this rises into the air and can be seen from far off, wheeling around like a dark whirling cloud.

Other farmland birds found in the valley include yellowhammer, turtle dove, linnet and reed bunting.

A few pairs of corn bunting and yellow wagtails can still be found in the valley but grey partridge disappeared in the late 1990s.

Several exciting land management projects are starting in the valley, which should expand the area of wetlands and encourage the increase and spread of farmland bird species. To find out more about these wildlife enhancement projects please click on Just Add Water in our reviews section.


The first formal survey of the birds of Brede Valley involved walk-over surveys of breeding birds by two local ornithologists, Mick Erends and Dave Pankhurst in spring 1979. Their results were published in a paper in the Hastings Natural History Society Bulletin. Most of their records were of the upper valley, particularly around Lidham.

Fifteen years later Matthew Denny undertook a more comprehensive breeding bird survey, covering an area from Winchelsea Station in the East to Brede Waterworks in the West. A paper presenting the results of this survey was published in the Sussex Bird Report (1995). For further information on the results so far, please click on Just Add Water

If you are a keen amateur naturalist and have been keeping notes of your own observations, please do send them to us by emailing We would welcome your input and may post your findings on this site (subject to confirmation).

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