THE rare Dartford warbler has been spotted at Ockham Heath, near Cobham, after an absence of more than six years.
SIGHTING: The rare Dartford warbler Photo by Jason Bonsey
The shy little bird can be found on lowland heathlands across Southern England and is usually seen perched on top of gorse plants singing in what is described as a scratchy warble.
Ockham Heath is managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust on behalf of Surrey County Council and is designated a Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area due to its important heathland habitat and vulnerable populations of ground nesting birds.
Along with nightjar and woodlark, the Dartford warbler completes the trio of specialist heathland birds for the site.
Unfortunately these birds do not cope very well in extremely cold, snowy weather – a combination of harsh temperatures and major habitat loss caused the population of Dartford warblers to fall to just a few pairs across the whole of the UK in the 1960s.
Since then the population and habitat range of Dartford warblers has gradually increased but it is still regarded as an “Amber List” species, meaning it is still of conservation concern.
Surrey Wildlife Trust ranger Gemma Hayes said: “It is one of the proudest moments in my career to welcome back the Dartford warbler to Ockham Heath.
“It not only helps to show me that the heathland restoration is working and the habitat quality is improving, it is also an indicator to how amazing our hard-working volunteers are who have helped me with habitat management on the heath. Thank you all so much.”