Rare owl spotted at Eastbourne’s Seven Sisters Country Park

Seven Sisters Country Park’s newest visitor, a short eared owl, has delighted birdwatchers and walkers with its aerial acrobatics as it hunts for food.

Up until recently, seeing one of these birds of prey would have been an extremely rare sight at the country park.

The resurgence of the owls has been put down to a boom in their favourite food – the vole.

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Laura Clapham, ranger for Seven Sisters Country Park, said, “It’s been wonderful having these short-eared owls on the country park this winter – what a beautiful creature they are! To have five of them is quite extraordinary.

Seven Sisters Country Park’s newest visitor, a short eared owl, has delighted birdwatchers and walkers with its aerial acrobatics as it hunts for food. Picture by Peter Brooks. SUS-220802-100933001

“They migrate thousands of miles to Britain to escape the freezing cold winters of Russia and Scandinavia and it certainly seems like they’ve made themselves at home at Seven Sisters.

“We haven’t seen this many short-eared owls on this site for many years, so it’s really encouraging. This is nature recovery in action and it’s great to see.”

It comes after rangers at Seven Sisters worked hard over the past six months to manage the vegetation in the chalk grassland landscape.

As part of a new conservation management plan, certain fields on the 280-hectare site have not been grazed by cattle, leading to longer grasses that make the perfect habitat for voles to thrive.

Seven Sisters Country Park’s newest visitor, a short eared owl, has delighted birdwatchers and walkers with its aerial acrobatics as it hunts for food. Picture by Peter Brooks. SUS-220802-100912001

The South Downs National Park Authority assumed ownership and management of Seven Sisters Country Park last July with a commitment to improving biodiversity at the iconic site.

A small team of rangers are managing the fragile chalk grassland habitat and Sussex breed cattle have been introduced. The conservation grazing by the cows helps to manage the grassland, which can have up to 45 species of plants in a single square metre.

Peter Cousin, commercial manager for Seven Sisters Country Park, said, “We’re committed to improving the habitat at Seven Sisters for a range of plants and animals.

“It’s still very early days and will take many years, but it’s fantastic to see the first green shoots of nature recovery.”

Seven Sisters Country Park’s newest visitor, a short eared owl, has delighted birdwatchers and walkers with its aerial acrobatics as it hunts for food. Picture by Peter Brooks. SUS-220802-100923001