The Fab Four Henfield Birdwatch team met at 7.45 at the Downslink car park on 5th Jan for their annual SOS New Year Bird Race. It was a gloriously sunny day, with light winds most of the time.

Our aim is to see as many species as possible in the parish. To “count”, three of us have to see or hear the species. We drove to Woods Mill, wandered round the reserve, which gave us a really good start with 36 species by coffee time. Four Gadwall on the lake were rather a surprise as we didn’t see any on the floods. Will and I heard a distant Mistle Thrush, but it then stopped singing, and we never heard another – drat, couldn’t count it! Along the millstream we found Stonechats, Reed Bunting, Skylarks and Snipe. Canada Geese, Egyptian Geese and a Rook near the heronry brought the total to 45, then we spotted the only Grey Heron of the day!

We were glad we made the effort to walk to the overflow pit where we got the hoped for Green Sandpiper, but also a bonus Little Grebe. Back to the railway line where the floods produced Wigeon, Pintail, Teal and Shoveler. A scan with the ‘scope located a large dark grey bird on a distant post – a stunning Peregrine. By the southern railway bridge we had excellent views of a small flock of Redwings.

By lunch we were on 56 – still no Greenfinch. But we ate our sarnies at my house, and one dutifully turned up in next door’s tree. Heading north up the Downslink we saw a brilliant male Bullfinch by the side of the track. It was feeding on the seeds of a stinging nettle. Down by the river a couple of small groups of Linnets flew overhead, a largish flock of Fieldfares flew into a tree on the west side (we’d pretty well given up on these), and finally as dusk settled we all got good views of a Barn Owl by the river, twisting and turning in the beautiful evening light. Our 62nd species of the day, just one short of our all-time record. If only one more of us had heard that Mistle Thrush! (VB, NC, NP, WG)