> Forest Wildlife
Note: An alarming increase in Road Traffic Accidents involving wild animals and speeding, careless driving is causing widespread concern. If you are involved or witness such an accident please contact the East Sussex Wildlife Ambulance. Tel: 07815 - 078234.  www.wildlifeambulance.co.uk 

Fallow Deer

Despite the many road signs around the Forest which depict a red deer there are no longer any red deer to be found. The main herds are of fallow deer which now probably number almost a thousand. They are not fed, counted, marked or shot (except by a couple of landowners) nor are they contained in any way, being free to join other herds and collect harems of females from any area. As there is no formal culling, natural selection takes place on the basis of the fitness of the animals to survive on the Forest. However, over a hundred animals a year are killed on the roads in spite of the warning signs and the installation of reflective posts at popular herd crossing points. Drivers should always be aware that deer travel in groups - if one crosses the road it is almost certain that others will follow. There are four recognised colours of fallow deer: common (pale and spotted in the summer, dark brown in the winter); menil (pale and spotted all year round, with more white on the rump); white; black. Most of the Forest deer are of the common variety although there have been sightings of menil and a couple of white bucks.

Roe Deer

After the great storm of 1987 there was an increase in numbers of roe deer, probably due to the creation of glades which grew food-plants for the deer. Now there are probably more than a dozen established roe deer territories on the Forest.

Muntjac Deer

In recent years the number of Muntjac deer (from China) has increased significantly - they are much smaller than the fallow deer and appear to be less timid.

Sika Deer

The sika deer (from Japan) on the Forest are the descendents of animals which escaped from the Springhill Wildfowl Farm almost twenty years ago - they now number about two dozen individuals. Although they are very similar in appearance to the fallow deer the sika stags can be recognised by the non-flattened antlers, similar to red deer, spots roughly organised into rows and white scent glands on the back legs.

Rabbits and Squirrels

Both rabbits and grey squirrels are common everywhere on the Forest. When myxomatosis was introduced in 1953 the Forest began to suffer from birch invasion and over-maturity of vegetation - proof, maybe, that the rabbit population actually helped to maintain the heathland by producing a short, heathy turf and removing grass, gorse and tree seedlings.

Dormice

Dormice have been recorded on the Forest in the Cackle Street hazel wood and around Fairwarp as well as the Chelwood Vachery and Twyford where storm-damaged woods are regrowing with a range of appropriate plants which provide food for the dormouse. Interestingly, dormice enjoy the same legal protection as bats.

Bats

The following species have been recorded on the Forest: Pipistrelle, Brown long-eared, Daubenton's, Noctule, Serotine. All British bats and their roosts are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and the conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994.

Foxes

Foxes are quite common on the Forest although no records exist to suggest their approximate numbers. Like the deer, they are frequently the victims of traffic accidents. They are also hunted by the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent and the Southdown and Eridge Hunts, but hopefully, not for much longer. The foxes' main diet probably consists of rabbits as other small mammals are in short supply.

Badgers

Badgers and their setts are protected by the Protection of Badgers Act, 1992. There are several large, active setts on the Forest but, again, road casualties are all too common. The badger clearly likes the easy-to-dig sandy soils on the Forest but probably find little to eat on the open heath and, therefore, sticks to the woodland where its staple diet of earthworms and insects abounds.

Adders

Adders are plentiful on the Forest heathland but are seldom seen except, perhaps, when basking in the early summer sun (these are generally pregnant females which are reluctant to move). Generally, they disappear when they detect people approaching. The adder's most distinctive features are a dark zigzag along the back and a V or X mark behind the head. Males are silvery, pale yellow or brown and about 18" long. Females are duller, ranging from red-brown to yellow, and longer - about 2 ft. Both red and black specimens sometimes occur. With the first frosts, they hibernate by retiring into a ready-made hole underground. Adder venom is a powerful heart depressant, causing rapid death of natural prey (lizards, slow-worms, mice, voles and shrews). With human beings the symptoms are pain, swelling and discoloration in the area of the bite - but there have been fewer than 12 fatalities in Britain in the last 60 years as the adder is not dangerous to man if left alone.

Birds

The following is an alphabetical list of birds which can be seen on the Forest but not all, of course, are resident:

Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Brambling, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Crossbill, Crow, Cuckoo, Curlew, Dartford Warbler, Dunnock, Fieldfare, Firecrest, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Grasshopper Warbler, Great Grey Shrike, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch, Green Woodpecker, Grey Partridge, Grey Wagtail, Hen Harrier, Heron, Hobby, House Sparrow, House Martin, Jackdaw, Jay, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Whitethroat, Linnet, Little Owl, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mandarin Duck, Marsh Tit, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Nightjar, Nuthatch, Pheasant, Pied Flycatcher, Pied Wagtail, Red-backed Shrike, Red-legged Partridge, Redpoll, Redstart, Redwing, Reed Bunting, Ring Ousel, Robin, Rook, Siskin, Skylark, Snipe, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Swallow, Swift, Tawny Owl, Treecreeper, Tree Pipit, Turtle Dove, Water Rail, Wheatear, Whinchat, Whitethroat, Wigeon, Willow Tit, Willow Warbler, Woodcock, Woodlark, Wood Pigeon, Wren, Yellow Wagtail.

For more comprehensive information on the above, including Residents, Summer Visitors, Winter Visitors and Passage Migrants see "Information on Ashdown Forest" compiled by Chris Marrable and Nicky Muggeridge, available from the Ashdown Forest Centre, Wych Cross, Forest Row, RH18 5JP.