Birds

Many species of birds are to be found on and around the South Downs.  There are a number of Rook colonies near Bepton Down and these will often be seen flying overhead.  Occasionally they will mob a bird of prey such as the Buzzard.  This once scarce raptor has made a remarkable comeback now filling a distinct niche.  It is sometimes spotted over the Downs and is unmistakable thanks to its mewing call.  Another welcome sight is that of the Red Kite.  Less than ten years ago none were to be seen in the area.  Now, thanks to re-introduction programs, they grace our skies once more.  Look up and you might be lucky and spot a forked tail in the sky – the red kite’s distinguishing feature.  They perform a vital role fulfilling the role of “vulture” as they are our only scavenging bird of prey.  They clear up road kill and other animals that have fallen foul of something or other.  They have also been seen in the Scottish Highlands clearing up the afterbirth littering the lambing pastures.  Of the smaller raptors a Kestrel may be seen hovering over Bepton Down hoping to spot a small rodent and then there is the Sparrowhawk darting along the fence line hoping to flush out a small bird for lunch.  Nature in tooth and  claw before your very eyes.

At night the area is home to a number of Barn Owls and these will travel quite a distance from their base in search of voles and other small rodents.  The Tawny and Little Owls will also be out and about.

During the day small birds may be spotted and these include the Skylark.  This once abundant but now rare bird is unfortunately on the Red List meaning that it is critically endangered.  It is a resident bird and can be spotted year round.  The best time though is in the spring when it loves to display by flying vertically upwards singing as it does so and then tumbling back to earth.  It nests on the ground and therefore needs totally undisturbed grassland during the breeding season and this habitat is in increasingly short supply.