Yellowhammer ( Emberiza citrinella )

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

Our breeding bird and winter flock surveys and nest recording are revealing just how rich the scrubland of the Southern Block is for songbirds.

Thorny scrub (a habitat now almost totally erased from the wider countryside) provides nesting habitat for a remarkable number of nightingales [hyperlink] and yellowhammers (one of our most rapidly declining farmland birds, with a drop of 60% nationwide since 1960), and astonishing numbers of lesser whitethroats. In 2016 more lesser whitethroats were ringed in one field at Knepp than in any one year in the whole of Hampshire.

The complex scrubland habitat also provides opportunities for ground-nesting willow warblers and skylarks.

In the autumn the Wildland is a staging-post for blackcaps, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, reed warblers, lesser redpoll, lesser whitethroats and whitethroats as they head south for the winter. Berries and insects found in the scrub provide a crucial food source for these birds as they build up layers of fat for their long migration.

Bird-ringing in the scrub turns up rare passage migrants such as a grasshopper warbler, tree pipit and redstart that we may otherwise not have encountered.

In autumn and winter, large numbers of fieldfare and redwing roost in the scrub and can be seen feeding on the scrubland berries and insects in the more open pastures during in the day. An extraordinary number of bullfinches breed and winter in the Southern Block, feeding on leaf and flower buds and seeds.