Birding in Heene Cemetery

Heene Cemetery is designated a Sussex Site of Nature Conservation Importance, and is managed as a nature reserve, with consideration for the need to maintain access to the graves and to treat them with due respect. Read why neatness and tidiness do not encourage wildlife, or provide for its needs…

by David Campbell

Looking for local ornithological projects to sink my teeth into during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was keen on monitoring bird migration within walking distance of home in West Worthing.

Despite no expansive green spaces for at least a 40-minute walk, I realised there was excitement on my doorstep.

After logging offshore migration from the beach, and recording birds in the adjacent pocket-park that is Marine Gardens, I was approached by Sue Standing, Chair of Friends of Heene Cemetery, to monitor birds at the site.

Initially I was a little hesitant but an initial visit filled me with excitement about what might visit this marvellous pocket of habitat, just a few streets back from the coastline.

My eye was caught by the potential for mist-netting and ringing birds in the cemetery, both as a means of collecting high-quality ornithological data and as an opportunity for public engagement with birds and their conservation.

Nearly two years later, I have visited the cemetery 54 times, mostly to ring birds. I aim to visit weekly but work sometimes causes spells of unavailability.

I have recorded 58 species of bird in or from the cemetery, including interesting migrants such as Pied Flycatcher and Tree Pipit, and ringed 166 birds of 20 species during the visits.

Alongside Blue Tits, Robins and Dunnocks, migrating species such as Willow Warbler and Redwing have been trapped and ringed. One net had a good run of catching larger birds, including a Herring Gull! 

Birding in Heene Cemetery gives an insight to birds visiting Heene Cemetery.

A recent ringing session yielded our first ‘control’ bird (an individual originally ringed elsewhere). The Chiffchaff caught in mid-October had been ringed 16 days previously at Durlston Country Park in Dorset, 114km away.

David Campbell – Wildlife Guide