Storks Back in Business

There is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, 3D and 4K.  The same individual who alongside his vast personal collected works also managed, as Controller of BBC 2 to commission such triumphs as “Civilization” and “The Ascent of Man”.  That is of course, Sir David Attenborough.  

When I visited last week I was excited to hear that two programmes he is working on involve filming locally on the Knepp Estate.  Sir David was filming the same day in temperatures well into the eighties – showing impressive resilience for a broadcaster himself well into his nineties!

The transformation of the Knepp Estate has been well recorded – including by Isabella Tree in her book “Wilding”.  A new environment created by free roaming cattle, deer and ponies has massively  increased biodiversity.  The estate is the only place in the UK where turtle doves, nightingales and cuckoos can all be heard.  It is teaching us about how Sussex would once have looked prior to human cultivation - as well as information on not only biodiversity but carbon sequestration.

However there is particular current grounds for excitement and I was delighted to be among 20,000 who have “flocked” to Knepp to see the first Stork chicks born in the UK since 1416.

Storks were once a common sight in England.  Indeed they gave their name to Storrington,  which derives from the Saxon “Estorchestone” – the village of the storks. They live on there through the village emblem and football team.

The reintroduction, through the White Stork Project, thus has particular local as well as national resonance.

The female is a ringed bird from the reintroduction project, which came to Knepp in 2016 from Poland.  The male, however is thought likely to be one of the twenty or so vagrant storks which visit the UK each year.  There is plenty of food sources available on the estate for these omnivores which will be allowed to fly freely and forage in the surrounding landscape where, it is hoped, they will begin to build nests and successfully rear their young. It is hoped that Sussex and the wider landscape in southern England will in future support not only summer visitors but a wintering population of storks.


Photo Credit: Jeremy Quin at the Knepp Estate.