One of the birds that ensures Ashdown Forest’s global protected status is thriving – but work to keep the species flourishing is far from over.

The nightjar lives on the forest’s lowland heath, a habitat that is “even rarer than the rainforest”, and officials say its presence indicates the lowland is in good health.

A team of volunteers led by Ashdown Forest rangers recently completed their yearly audit, which is essential to chart the population numbers of the birds.

The rangers have been working to restore and enhance the birds’ territories. The survey identified 86 territories, up from 85 the previous year.

Ash Walmsley, Ashdown Forest’s countryside manager, said: “These birds are vital to the forest’s protected status.

“A thriving population of nightjars is a reliable barometer for the health of our lowland heath.

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“We will now be concentrating our efforts on improving and extending their habitat and we hope to see a higher number of them next year.”

Nightjars arrive at Ashdown Forest from Africa in May and nest on the ground often close to paths.

When the chicks hatch, their eyes are already open and they can walk, but they are not able to fly for about 18 days which makes them vulnerable to predators and disturbance from dogs and human visitors.