As one of South East Water’s resident Ecologists working in the Environment Team, Environmental Performance Invasive Non-native Species (INNS) and Strategy Lead Sam Pottier has a role to play in monthly bird counts at Barcombe Reservoir in East Sussex.

We caught up with him to find out more about his role and the bird surveys which have been taking place since 1966.

"As guardians of the environment, we take our responsibilities seriously to protect and enhance the natural environment and work hard to increase the number and range of species living on our land."

Can you tell us about your role?

My job title is Environmental Performance Invasive Non-native Species (INNS) and Strategy Lead.  It’s a bit of a mouthful but essentially means that I work with different departments within the company to make sure we fulfil our role as caretakers of the environment and our statutory requirements as a water company.  

I’m also responsible for planning our long-term management of the 33 sites we own within Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), carrying out surveys of protected species and working with volunteers.

One specific project I’m working on is how we can use biological controls – natural alternatives to chemicals such as weed killer - to stop the spread of invasive non-native species such as Himalayan Balsam. As the name suggests, the plant is native to the Himalyas but spreads rapidly in the UK, smothering other vegetation and native plants as it grows.

I have been a practicing ecologist for six years and am an Associate member of the Chartered Institute for Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM).

How long have you worked at South East Water?

I’ve been at South East Water since 2015.  Prior to that, I was employed as a consultant ecologist within the development sector where I gained experience in habitat enhancement and mitigation.

What can you tell us about the bird counts at Barcombe Reservoir?

The regular bird counts were started by local vet David Lang when the reservoir was built in 1966. David and his fellow ornithologists recorded the bird life found at the reservoir each month since, even after the reservoir closed to the public in 2007. 

Two or three local birders join myself or another South East Water ecologist for the counts, scanning the environment with binoculars or a telescope and writing down what we find.

The findings from Barcombe Reservoir form part of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). This national survey monitors divers, grebes, cormorants, herons, swans, geese, ducks, rails, waders, gulls, terns and kingfishers.

Over the years, 173 bird species have been recorded on or around the reservoir including rare species such as Ringed-necked Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, Laughing Gull and White-winged Black Tern

Why is it important to keep track of the species that call our reservoir home?

This is a precious data set that provides an important record of not only the changing fortunes of birdlife in this part of Sussex but also provides an indication of the environmental importance of the reservoir.  As guardians of the environment, we take our responsibilities seriously to protect and enhance the natural environment and work hard to increase the number and range of species living on our land.

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