Final phase of work for West Sussex RSPB site

Small red damselfly. Photo: Ben Rainbow.
Small red damselfly. Photo: Ben Rainbow.

This autumn and winter, RSPB Pulborough Brooks will be starting the final phase of its heathland restoration project.

The RSPB’s plans for the area have always been to recreate the heathland habitat, attracting specialist birds, insects and plants.

Heathland is one of the world’s rarest habitats and much of it has been destroyed; West Sussex alone has lost 90 per cent of its heathland since the 1800s.

Over the next few months, further areas of conifer plantation will be felled and thinned to allow the heathers and grasses to regenerate and create the conditions that birds like woodlark and nightjar enjoy.

Senior warden Peter Hughes said: “Whilst forestry operations are underway there will be some disturbance and temporary closures to paths, but the results from previous year’s work indicate that the heather regenerates and wildlife moves in quickly to the newly cleared areas.”

The work that has been done over the past few years has already resulted in a greater variety of wildlife in the area and the heath has become a much more important feature of the reserve for visitors.

This year, visitors have enjoyed performing nightjars, dragonflies and chirping field crickets.

Whilst the wet summer was a wash-out for many insects, Pulborough Brooks had some great news when Small Red Damselflies were seen for the first time.

The bright scarlet damselflies with their ruby-red eyes are very rare in Sussex, and they have probably come from an isolated population several kilometres away.

The pools where the damselflies were found were made several years ago, and the RSPB are planning to create additional areas of wet heath and ponds over the coming months.

Peter added: “Staff and volunteers have put a huge amount of work into the heathland restoration here, and it is hugely satisfying that it is paying off – it is really exciting that this rare species has colonised the site so soon after the habitat was created and it augurs well for the next few years”.

Once the main clearance work has been completed, the ongoing management of the heath will include grazing livestock, woodland management such as coppicing and the control of bracken and birch.

If you would like to find out more about the reserve’s plans, please pop into the Visitor Centre or contact the reserve on 01798 875851 or email pulborough.brooks@rspb.org.uk.