The riverine woodland we are creating on Bersted Brooks is a rare habitat offering outstanding opportunities for increasing biodiversity.
The 12,000+ trees we have planted include: common alder, pedunculate oak, crack willow, black poplar, downy birch, ash and white willow, plus a variety of fruiting trees including pear and plum. There used to be 1000’s of black poplars in Sussex, but with suitable ‘wet’ woodland being cut down because of modern farming practices it has become quite a rarity. The Black Poplar Working Group from Wakehurst Place has been monitoring our young specimens to verify they are of the ‘Sussex’ genus populus nigra ssp. betulifolia, of which there are fewer than 40 mature specimens remaining.
Woodland shrubs such as grey willow, osier, hawthorn, wych elm, elder, goat willow, holly, hazel, guelder rose and blackthorn have been planted at the margins to encourage wildlife into the wooded areas, which will account for just 37% of the Brooks. Our volunteers have also planted hundreds of wildflower plugs to enhance the existing flora.
We regularly undertake surveys of the wildlife the Brooks supports, often helped by local clubs, societies or individuals with specialist knowledge. Help with some of the surveys is only open to Kingfisher Members, but often virtually any willing volunteers can help out. It has been confirmed that water voles live along the banks of the Aldingbourne Rife, and sometimes we get visited by roe deer, hares, weasels, although you need to be very quiet to spot one of these secretive creatures. All of this means we must be doing something right!
We are host to some unusual treats, not least a very rare species of picture-winged fly, which loves the prickly ox tongue plant that thrives in one part of the Brooks. We have several avid birders as members and between them they have recorded over 50 different species of birds over the past 6 years. One of the most popular birds is the skylark ~ we have had up to 12 pairs breeding on the Brooks in the summer and they fill the sky with their song almost every day! Relatively recently there were sightings of a red kite, a water rail, a little owl, and a small flock of waxwings.
You can always let us know what you’ve spotted, either by emailing us or by noting it on the sightings board, currently in Field 3 but possibly being moved to a better position soon!