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Dartford warblers return to Ockham Heath

PUBLISHED: 19:55 23 November 2014 | UPDATED: 20:06 24 November 2014

Dartford warbler (Photo: Jason Bonsey)

Dartford warbler (Photo: Jason Bonsey)

Archant

After an absence of over six years, Dartford warblers have returned to Ockham Heath, near Wisley.

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A beautiful, shy little bird that can be found on lowland heathlands across southern England, the Dartford warbler is usually seen perched on top of gorse plants singing its unmistakable scratchy warble.

“It is one of the proudest moments in my career to welcome back the Dartford warbler to Ockham Heath,” says Surrey Wildlife Trust ranger, Gemma Hayes.

“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.”

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 these harsh temperatures and major habitat loss caused the population of Dartford warblers to crash 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, which means that it is still of conservation concern.

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