May Big Bird Bash

The end of May saw Henfield Birdwatch run another Big Bird Bash, in aid of The Haven, consisting of a series of walks throughout the parish to see how many different species of birds can be found in one weekend – albeit one which just spilled over into June!  To maximize the chances of seeing as many as possible, one of the walks started at 6.30 am, and others didn’t leave until 6.30 in the evening.

The early walk, led by Paul, started at the Downslink car park, and headed north. Fortunately not too many speeding bikes and noisy dogs around at that time of the morning, and the group was treated to some wonderful experiences.  Two Nightingales were singing and flying around in the scrub bordering the track – maybe ones that established territory there last year, or possibly their offspring?  By Betley Bridge a male Yellowhammer was singing that “littlebitofbreadandnocheeeese” song in a nearby bush, and a female was seen diving into another bush with nesting material, or possibly food, in her beak.

The 30 or so folk who joined Mike’s evening walks not only enjoyed the wonderful songs of up to five different Nightingales and caught a glimpse of the Kestrel family in their Woods Mill nest box, but also saw and heard a Turtle Dove, and spotted some Lapwing chicks – these are yet more species on the Red List, due to an alarming decline in numbers in recent years.  Mike’s walks proved so popular he ended up running two more!

 

 

The final walk took in the area along the Downslink and the river to the south of the village.  Grey Heron youngsters were still hanging around the couple of nests which had been occupied this year, and several Little Egrets were noticed, including one perched in a tree, showing off its main distinguishing feature – yellow feet! (Photo by Graham Speed)

 

 

A pair of Mute Swans which were seen building a nest a couple of months ago, were proudly showing off their family of 6 cygnets.  And some more Red-list birds put in an appearance, with several Skylarks heard singing, and chattering Linnets flying around by the river.

 

 

 

All in all an extremely successful Bash with lots of people joining the walks and recording birds in their gardens.  Number of species seen was a superb 69.  We asked for donations – which stood at £493 at the time of writing – all of which will go to our wonderful Henfield Haven.

 

The Book….

... it's here at last! Members will receive a free copy, otherwise, available from R & H Pets, Coopers Way, or email sightings@henfieldbirdwatch.co.uk

Read all about it!   Or more specifically, read all about the birdlife in our lovely local surroundings.  2019 was our fifth five-yearly survey and it has taken getting on for a year to put all the reports together about what has been going on bird-wise in the parish.

We are delighted to announce that our new book is now hot off the press.  To whet your appetite, in addition to accounts of all 115 species recorded during the year, these are some of the other goodies therein!

Review of the Year:  Giving a flavour of the comings and goings of summer and winter migrants, such as the arrival of Swifts, Swallows, House Martins and Cuckoos in April, Nightingales in May, Redwings and Fieldfares in the autumn.  Plus the more unusual visitors, a gorgeous pair of Garganey ducks in April, Whinchat, Wheatear and Wryneck in August, Yellow Wagtails in September, Black Redstarts in October & November, and a Water Pipit in December.

Garden Birdwatch: Members and non-members took part for a whole year and found 69 different species in their gardens, including Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and Marsh Tits, both now pretty scarce species in Sussex.

Special Surveys: All three Henfield Commons were surveyed in 2019, and an ongoing survey of Perching Manor Farm is showing how numbers of farmland birds are benefiting from a farming system supporting wildlife. Our annual Nightingale Survey, started in 1999, reaches out to include Wineham and Edburton. Read how these magnificent songsters make the most of our local habitats.

In the Village: Hazel has been keeping an watchful eye on the House Martins which have found the Deer Park estate much to their liking – read her diary from the arrival of the first bird in April to their final departure in September.  And Debbie’s enthusiasm for “our” Swifts shines through her account of their nesting activities, both in more natural sites in the eaves of houses, and in the specially provided nestboxes.

Photographs & Illustrations: The photos are amazing.  They were all taken locally, and mostly by our members.  Will Green’s illustrations are as wonderful as ever, and put the finishing touches to the book.

All members and garden birdwatchers will get a free copy of the book.  They will be available to purchase at R & H Pet Supplies in Coopers Way, or contact Val Bentley on 01273 494723 or sightings@henfieldbirdwatch.co.uk Copies are £5.

 

Big Bird Bash September 2020

This year’s Henfield Birdwatch Big Bash took place between September 25th to 29th, with the objective of recording as many species of birds as possible in the village over the five days. The previous record stood at 62 species and the aim was to see if this could be beaten, and it was to be Mike Russell that got the event underway on Friday evening, leading a group from Woods Mill and along the Mill Stream. Highlights of this first walk were a small flock of Yellow Wagtails, a Sparrowhawk and Tawny Owls calling from Woods Mill. The end result was 30 birds recorded; a solid if not spectacular start to proceedings.
The following day saw a three pronged attack, with Paul Cole leading a group up the Downslink and back down the river, Nigel Colgate covering Wantley, both in the morning, whilst Mike went out again in the evening covering the same area as the night before. More new species were added to the list: a Hobby over the river, a Little Egret at New Inn Farm, a Treecreeper on Nigel’s patch, Grey Wagtail at Woods Mill and a Snipe further along the Mill Stream. With new birds being added to the list all the time, things were starting to look promising. Indeed, at the end of the first two days the running total now stood at 57 birds seen or heard.
Next up was Will Green, who undertook to see what he could see on Henfield Common and in Woodmancote. He found two species that hadn’t been ticked yet, Pheasant and Mistle Thrush on his way to a solid 36. We were now on 59, just four short of a new record.
The final expedition, led by Val Bentley, had been pushed back to Tuesday, but in the meantime Mike and Lesley Milward had been busy checking out their garden every morning. Proving that you don’t have to look much further than your own doorstep, they amassed 42 species. This included some exciting Finch action  with Siskin, Greenfinch and Crossbill passing overhead, and joining them was a passing Raven. And there they were, the four we needed and the record was broken!
So Val Bentley headed off on the Tuesday morning walk with the pressure off and a chance to put some icing on the cake. This she certainly did, not only adding several birds that hadn’t been seen so far, but also recording the highest total of any of the groups – 45. This included Whinchat (a scarce migrant in these parts) and a dashing Kingfisher.


With the total at the end of the five days at 67 the record was beaten by five, with some excellent birds seen or heard in the process and a good time had by all. As ever, it’s the taking part that counts and a big thank you to all those who did come out and brave the at times blustery conditions. After such a long enforced lay-off it was brilliant to get the members out on organised walks once more, and hopefully it won’t be too long before we can do it all over again!

Final Big Bird Bash walk

It was stretching it a bit to make Tuesday the final walk for the Big Bird Bash Weekend, but it proved very enjoyable for myself & Maya, who were joined by Nige, Sue M, Angela T, Lucy and Mary F.

The highlights of Area 9, part 1, from the village to Stretham this morning were a nicely perched Kestrel, 5 Stonechats, about 300 Starlings chattering away in a tree, a young Grey Heron sitting on the old nest with four or five Cormorants in the cormorant tree nearby and the seal coming up with the tide at the bridge.  We turned up river (part 2) when Sue spotted a flash of orange and blue, then lost it, then found it again sitting on a concrete slab near some railings.  We watched it for a long time, it dived into the river and came back to the same spot.  We left it sitting there, then Sue noticed it again flying up river with a fish in its beak.  The overflow pit had a lot of birds flitting about in the reeds, more Stonechats (we reckoned 25-ish total for the morning), Reed Buntings, and at least one Whinchat. A Sparrowhawk dashed across and a yellowish-but-dark-legged Chiffchaff was seen flitting about in willows by the river, so we couldn’t turn it into anything else.

Didn’t get back to the starting point until about 1.30.

We saw 45 species  which didn’t include Long-tailed Tit or House Sparrow!

Big Bird Bash

Not the best weekend to choose for the Bird Bash!  Windy and rather chilly but the walks so far have been brilliant.

Mike kicked off the weekend on Friday evening with a walk round Woods Mill and along the millstream , recording 30 species with a couple of real highlights, the first being half-a-dozen Yellow Wagtails feeding amongst the cattle and gleaming yellow in the evening sun. Another was a Sparrowhawk flying low over the field and landing on a tree so we could get nice scope views. Stonechats always sit up nicely for you and we had the privilege of 4 of them showing themselves off to us. Meadow Pipits kept popping out of the long grass and a single Skylark flew over us as did a couple of linnets.

Nigel C and Paul both led  walks on Saturday morning.  Paul’s was along the Downslink and down river.  They got a several autumn migrants: a Chiffchaff was calling above , a Blackcap was filling up on elderberries and Swallows and House Martins flew overhead. Further up a pair of Goldcrests was a nice find.  A Stonechat was just down from Betley Bridge, but the wind made the going a bit tougher and the birds were now thinner on the ground but they were quickly warmed up  by the best bird of the day when a Hobby dashed over the river.

Nige followed his Area 2 walk, and the team clocked up 31 species which was pretty good especially when the only finches seen were Linnets and the Area 2 reliable Yellowhammers deserted us. Top marks   for getting Treecreeper which is often elusive and a scratchy growling Whitethroat near Furners Lane. Nige was able to sound particularly knowledgeable by pointing out the flap flap glide flight pattern of a very obliging Sparrowhawk! Most unusual Area 2 sighting was of three Grey Herons, all of them flying over at considerable height and speed.

Mike’s second walk on Saturday evening followed the same route. Much the same birds on the reserve but this time added Grey Wagtail as compensation for not seeing the Yellow Wagtails later on, plus a Pied Wagtail flew over to complete the wagtail set. And they added Reed Bunting. However, the best bird which was rather a surprise was a Snipe which suddenly shot up in the air and flew over their heads!

Report from Will’s walk on Sunday to come, and there is still the Area 9 walk on Tuesday.  Many thanks to all who have donated so far to The Haven, Henfield’s wonderful Community Centre

Not just Birds!

On a river walk on 6th August, Brian L, Lesley M, Mike D and Val enjoyed  a wander round Lancasters nursery, then by the old Adams yard (now Adams Gardens) the flowers (?) on a monkey puzzle tree in a garden were fabulous, and Lesley spotted a low flying Buzzard.

By the river we surmised about none of us having seen the seal which has been around for a couple of months, when all of a sudden, there it was, hauled up on the opposite bank in the sunshine.

Excellent views. Just a single Mute Swan on the river, a flying Mallard, and a Grey Heron in a field at the confluence.  A flock of Long-tailed Tits were calling from willows by the river, a lovely Flowering Rush

was in the river with Banded Demoiselles fluttering nearby, Linnets flew up from the bushes, and we saw a Roe Deer munching away in a field to the right.

How Many Cattle Egrets?!

On July 23rd there were an amazing 15 Cattle Egrets by the river south of Betley Bridge – doing what they’re supposed to do, feeding in a field with cattle!  Only 2 previous reports of the species in the area, one in 1999 and a second in 2019.