Wildlife species

Samphire Hoe is a haven for wildlife. The site supports a rich biodiversity including:

Wildlife species

  • Over 200 plant species, the result of natural colonisation of the 31 original species sown onto the site
  • More than 5,000 early spider orchids counted in 2017, after a record of 11,500 in 2012, compared with the 67 first recorded back in 1998
  • 80 sheep and 10 cows (including one pure highland and 9 highland angus mix) currently graze on the Samphire Hoe meadows.
  • 30 butterfly species
  • About 170 species of moth, including 5 featured in the Biodiversity Action Plan
  • 13 species of dragonflies and damselflies
  • 123 species of birds were recorded in 2017. 23 species held territory in the recording area.

All year round, various species of wildlife - such as plants and birds - are to be discovered, according to seasons.



In late February, the first flower to appear is colt's foot. Meadow pipits begin to display over the grassland and Shakespeare's "shrill gorged lark" the skylarks start to sing. Migrant birds such as wheatears and swallows arrive. Orange tip and small white butterflies emerge on warmer days.



During the summer the Hoe buzzes with life. The restharrow dominates the site with its pink flowers.Common spotted orchids and yellow wort enliven the grassland. Common blue butterflies are on the wing. Adders and lizards can be seen basking in the warmth.



Rock sea lavender and sea asters are in flower. The red berries of stinking iris gleam on the cliff. Painted lady butterflies, small tortoise shells and red admirals are attracted by the buddleia along the railway line.



Many of the plants die back, but wild carrot flower heads turn brown and look like old birds nests. Rock pipits arrive to spend the colder months, and the sea buckthorn berries brighten up the winter scene.



Bird watching is popular at Samphire Hoe.

The recording area for birds encompasses the whole of the Hoe, plus the cliffs behind it, the sea offshore and the beaches at both the East and West ends.
123 different species of birds were recorded in 2017.


The location of the Hoe on the coast, just across the Channel from mainland Europe, means it can be an important area for migrant birds. Monitoring the bird population of the area indicates how the site is developing and can also support management decisions.

For more information, please read the Samphire Hoe bird report for 2017



The introduction of livestock at certain times of the year has been done from the start with the aim of encouraging the Hoe to develop into maritime chalk grassland, a very rare habitat. Since 2014, nearly 80 sheep and 10 cows including a pure highland now graze the Samphire Hoe meadows to further enhance biodiversity.


Temporary electric fences were used to make small enclosures. Wooden fences have been erected to form two large compartments. Livestock, sheep and cattle, are able to roam freely within the enclosures.

Samphire Hoe is part of the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme funded by DEFRA.