Mark Mallalieu CBE, Chair of Scientific Committee, Bird Report Editor & Council Member – Sussex Ornithological Society, kindly carried out a bird survey for the Charity between August 2022 and late May 2023.

Mark recorded 71 species in total and noted two slightly unusual characteristics within the Gravetye Estate: the lack of high-intensity farming and the diverse range of tree species, including exotics that are present – a legacy from William Robinson’s era.

Mark carried out a series of visits with the objective of covering all habitats at all seasons and at different times of day and night to make a list of regularly occurring species.

Mark noted the full suite of common High Weald woodland species is present and two woodland species with more exacting habitat needs – Goshawk & Firecrest. Due to the scarcity of large thick hedgerows, scrub and open birch, there was a scarcity of species such as Lesser Whitethroat, Nightingale and Common Redstart.

The Charity will use Mark’s report and information gathered at by volunteers to make habitat improvements for the future diversity of species.

More unusual species detected

Gadwell Mareca strepera – found on Lower Lake

Water Rail Rallus acquaticus – a scarce winter visitor to Sussex, we would like to find out if it winters regularly in our lakes

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis – found on both lakes and in good numbers for the size of our water bodies

Goshawk Accipiter gentilis – extinct in Sussex for many years, Goshawls have recolonised the county since the 1990’s and breeding numbers are increasing rapidly. As they prefer mature mixed woodland with firs and spruce, it is likely that the estate is within their territory.

Red Kite Milvus milvus – following reintroduction projects, a recent colonist.

Barn Owl Tyto alba – detected by people walking in the estate, we are providing a nest box at Home Farm.

Marsh Tit Poecile palustris – Mark found a healthy population, bucking the national trend.

Woodlark Lullula arborea – a heathland species spreading into farmland although it does not breed on the estate.

Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus – a declining species that prefers open birch woodland as found on the Ashdown Forest.

Garden Warbler Sylvia borin – located below the pylons near Vowels Lane Car Park, with a lovely song.

Whitethroat Curruca communis – prefers scrub and dense hedgerows and occurs in small numbers.

Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla – this beautiful tiny cousin of the Goldcrest colonised Sussex in the 1980s and there are now around 700 pairs. This species is strongly associated with Western Hemlock, Norway Spruce and Douglas Fir, especially when mixed with broadleaves. Three were found singing in spring around Gravetye Manor gardens and we hope that the essential felling of spruce due to the eight-toothed spruce beetle will not have disrupted them.

Stonechat Saxicola rubicola – prefers heathland and has been seen on rougher farmland.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus – a declining species but there is a colony around Home Farm.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea – this beautiful bird with yellow plumage is regularly seen along our streams and hovering above Lower Lake water lily pads.

Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis – two found on a field edge in September, would have been migrants.

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs – research links the loss of these birds to the disease Trichomonosis which is very rare on the estate.

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes – possibly our rarest species that may occur regularly in the estate. Numbers are meager in Sussex but have been spotted in the large Hornbeams fringing the north bank of Lower Lake, near the western end. Hawfinch likes to eat hornbeam nutlets and has huge bills capable of cracking the shells.

Greenfinch Chloris chloris – we have at least one breeding pair.

Linnet Linaria cannabina – just one found in a remnant area of gorse, their typical breeding habitat.

Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella – this species prefers open-farmed areas on the east side of the estate.

Our most typical species is Wren Troglodytes troglodytes.

Volunteers spotted Common House Martin Delichon urbicom on 13th May, but not on Mark’s list!


Mark recommends that the Charity ensures that the estate has a diverse avifuana that will be protected long-term. Management and creation of scarcer habitats such as scrub will help maintain diversity as well as safeguard ancient woodland and allow plenty of dead trees, where safe to do so, for habitat purposes. Planting more fruit and berry-bearing trees and shrubs would be beneficial.