Nightjar Outing

There were 5 of us (Louise, Grahame, Paul, Nige and me) for the Nightjar outing to Heyshott on 26 June, which meant we could all fit into Louise’s roomy VW.

The weather forecast had been for the wind to drop (it didn’t) and the sky to be clear (it wasn’t) but the 3rd requisite for Nightjar watching is warmth, and it was very pleasantly so. We set out for a short walk around, enjoying views of Tree Pipits and Stonechats, to the accompaniment of a singing Yellowhammer. Some finches silhouetted against the darkening sky were probably Siskins.

At about 9.45 a yip yip was heard from near the road, and churring started. Not long afterwards a bird flew and perched on a small bare branch low down on a nearby pine, and another joined it. We then had about 20 minutes of 3, sometimes 4, birds flying around where we were standing, with 1 or 2 birds returning to perch on the tree. Lovely close encounters. Nige didn’t even have to jump up and down waving the white patches on his jumper!

Many thanks to Grahame for the supply of sweets, and to Louise for being our chauffeur for the outing, and giving us a taster of her lovely rhubarb & blackberry gin afterwards!

Big Bird Bash Weekend – Result


(Many thanks to Paul for  keeping the list, and for writing up the report)

Val and Paul  got the Bash underway, covering the West End. Starting from the Downslink car park we headed up towards Betley bridge quickly ticking off the more common species including a singing Goldcrest. At the Bridge a Yellowhammer appeared, the first of five along the river bank. Reed Warblers were also in good numbers with singing males seemingly in almost every patch of reeds. Just before New Inn farm a Cetti’s Warbler obligingly sang out – of course heard and not seen. On the way back to the car park  Swift and Great Spotted Woodpecker were added, and after a tot up there were 40 species on the list. A solid start to the Bash .

Simultaneously Nigel, joined by two members, went out on his Wantley patch. He too soon racked up the common stuff and added some birds that Paul & Val missed. With Kestrel, Green Woodpecker, House Martin, Nuthatch and Jay all seen, the running total was then up to 46.

Will was the next to go out on the Sunday morning, but unfortunately the half-decent weather of the previous day was  replaced by rain. Despite this Will, who was also joined by Nigel, Val, Dave and Terry, managed to find 32 species including those that can often be tricky to find on these events: Stock Dove, Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch. This moved the overall total on to 50, the half-century had been reached by Sunday lunchtime! A decent tally now looked on the cards.

The weather had improved somewhat by the time Mike, Lesley, the Colgates and three other members ventured up the mill stream and back on Sunday evening. Quality was the hallmark here with Nightingale heard and both Barn Owl and Turtle Dove seen. Also on the list of 41 species were Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Lapwing and Long-tailed Tit. The running total was now up to 57; could we now make it to sixty by the end of the Bash?

That would have been Val’s intention as she headed on Monday, joined by no fewer than nine companions (and that was after two people dropped out!). Going out last was always going to make it tricky to find species that hadn’t yet been seen by others so two was a good return from the overall total of 41. A heard Coal Tit and a family of Coots would mean that the final total would be 59, just one short of the magic 60….

But with the “rules” (that we’d just invented!) saying that any bird seen by anyone over the weekend could be included, the Hobby seen by Debbie and Nigel over their garden could be included: the 60th species! And then both Val and Mike both reported that they had heard Tawny Owl which gave us our last species and therefore a final Big Bash total of 61. An excellent score and congratulations to all that took part.

Mike found the most species. He had 41 from his walk and added a further 9 from his garden making 50 in total. He also had the most unique species, five, which were Lapwing, Turtle Dove, Barn Owl, Nightingale and Long-tailed Tit. Will had Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch whilst Val also had two with Coot and Coal Tit. Sadly Nigel and me had none!

Seen by all were the following: Buzzard, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Crow and Goldfinch. Interesting that Buzzard is there, that wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago, and it also shows the rise of the Goldfinch recently. And good to see that we all still manage to see Skylark and Song Thrush despite their recent declines.

Missing species were perhaps Cormorant (despite Val’s best efforts), Red Kite (there’s normally one around somewhere these days), Treecreeper, Cuckoo and Lesser Whitethroat. We were possibly rather late in the season for the last two though.

Library Blue Tits

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West Sussex Libraries

Proof that libraries are #MoreThanJustBooks: one of our branches has been monitoring a family of Blue Tits using their #Nestcam, a secret camera within a nest box located in the tree just beside #HenfieldLibrary. From the careful building of the nest and the laying of 11 eggs, to the much-awaited hatching of the chicks this week, we’ve seen it all unfold. Just look at those hungry mouths – Mum and Dad have their work cut out!

What will you discover at your local library?

Magic Moment!

Angela T and I had a great walk through the patch on the 15th – including 10 minutes at the overflow pit west of the Adur, listing to Skylarks singing, Ravens croaking, and watching a pair of super Garganey in the water – then a Green Sandpiper rose from the pit too!  Many thanks to Paul C for making us aware the Garganey might be there)

Birds back on the brooks

Gorgeous sunset on Sunday afternoon, and after a long period when there was a lot of shooting and very little wildfowl on the brooks to the south of the village,  there were lots of Lapwing (maybe 400 or so), c 30 Teal and Shoveler, and c10 Pintail.  There were some Greylag and Canada Geese, a Grey Heron and 5 Cormorants in the tree near the heronry, but no signs of activity on the nests.  Plenty of Black-headed Gulls too, some Coots and Moorhens.  Nice to see a few birds around for a change!

This afternoon two Barn Owls were hunting in the fields by the confluence to the north.

New “patch” bird?

Was quite upset on Sunday when there was shooting down on the levels and no birds, but happier to report 5 Curlews were south of Rye Farm Friday morning (30/11). I’m sure I’ve only personally seen one in the area previously (in 26 years) and it was on the Steyning side of the river! Distant pic attached, visible on the “island” to the right of the gull. Lovely to hear them “curlewing” as they flew.

Also 20 Lapwing, 40 or so Common Gulls and a few Black-headed. About 10 Teal, lots of corvids, some of which were chased off a Sparrowhawk. A lot of noisy Geese, both Greylag and Canada. And a couple of decoy ducks from Sunday were still bobbing around!

This afternoon 2 Barn Owls hunting over the fields west of Chates, a Stonechat was flitting about near the bank and Snipe called from the field too.