For a small patch in the densely populated south-east corner of England, it is surprising what you can find in our village, the surrounding countryside and along the River Adur, so here is just a flavour of some of the species you might come across at different times of the year.
In the breeding season you should find Nightingales, Cetti’s Warblers, Reed Warblers, Cuckoos and Turtle Doves around Woods Mill and the West Mill stream. Nightingales also breed on Oreham Common, and – slightly further afield – at Wineham and Twineham. A few Lapwing may be in the fields near West Mill or west of the river and a Reed Warbler or two may be in the reedbed on Henfield Common, only 100 yards or so from the busy High Street!
The fields to the north east are arable and pasture, but these and the hedgerows are good for “littlebitofbreadandnocheeeese” Yellowhammers, Whitethroats and Kestrels. The old railway line, now the Downslink path, is the place to find finches, including the unobtrusive Bullfinch, and warblers including Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat
Tawny Owls are often heard near the church, and Barn Owls may feature in an evening stroll along the river or near Woods Mill.
The newest part of the Deer Park estate has become the place of choice for House Martins, with over 30 nests seen there on the houses. Plus Swallows nesting in the open barn-type garages. Henfield Birdwatch put up several Swift boxes, and our small population of Swifts have taken to them really well, and can be seen and heard screaming round the central part of the village during their brief stay in this country in late spring/early summer.
The rest of the year, depending on water levels, the fields between Rye Farm and the Downslink or to the west of Betley Bridge can hold really good numbers of wildfowl in autumn and winter, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pintail, sometimes Shelduck or, even more rarely, a Garganey. Bewick’s Swans used to be regular in winter but the past two years have only called in briefly on passage. Also passing through can be Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Dunlin.
In winter Short-eared Owls seen in some years near the river, and you are more likely to spot the flash of blue from a passing Kingfisher.
Plus of course, you never know when you may see a Red Kite drifting over!