Big Bird Bash – September

Nige, Angela B, Brian S, myself and Maya on the final Big Bird Bash walk on 30th September. We were so lucky to have a dry still day when the others battled with wind and/or rain. 52 different species seen, including two major highlights, Kingfisher and Whinchat. Both of the Saturday walk teams saw Spotted Flycatchers which were migrating south through our area. The total for the weekend was the same as the June bash at 62, but with a few different species the combined total for the 2 weekends was 72.  Amazing how many species we have in the patch.  And the winter visitors are yet to arrive!


Yellow Wags

Have been staring at herds of cattle for several weeks now (people think you’re off your head!), but it’s finally paid off.  A flock of Yellow Wags seen at Cissbury on Sunday and now two along the river on 20/9 between Betley and Chates on their way to winter in Africa.

I admit they were on the opposite river bank and aren’t nearly as yellow as Grey Wags, but these could be our first Henfield record of the species for 2019?  Also Kingfisher in same stretch of river yesterday.


September in Area 9

A good call to postpone the walk. The mist was clinging rather poetically to a spider’s web suspended between outer twigs of a tree. About 20 Swallows were flying over the fields, in some hawthorn bushes Angela & I saw at least 4 male Blackcaps, a brief view of what I’m pretty sure was a Garden Warbler, and then a Lesser Whitethroat showed nicely for several minutes on a low branch – affording a “record” shot.

As we headed up river from Stretham, Meadow Pipits were pipitting around and we saw a female Reed Bunting. A lone heron was by the overflow pit, the family of Mute Swans only had 2 young with them this month, we saw 2 Teal, and heard Coot & Moorhen. A bit further along there were Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and a sunbathing Wren in some cut, dead branches lying on the grass, and another flock of hirundines passed over – this time a mixture of Swallows and House Martins.

Final sightings were 2 Buzzards flying across the Rye Farm track and then a flash of orange alerted us to a Clouded Yellow butterfly feeding on thistles and buddleia.

White Storks

Apparently 24 juvenile White Storks were released at Knepp last week.  Debbie & Nigel saw 20 of these over the High Street this morning (21st) and others saw varying numbers.  I missed these but got my first Kingfisher of the year down near the Adur confluence!

Perseid walk 13th August

Astonishingly there were 14 of us on the annual August evening walk. Along Stonepit Lane we stopped to look across the fields towards the monastery, which probably had breeding Peregrines this year, and features in Peter James newest book.

By the river I set up my ‘scope to look at the clear bright moon – eliciting a “Wow” from Bella (Louise’s 11 year old daughter) – the craters looked fabulous, and we could just about see Jupiter (?) with 2 of its moons. Disappointingly though not a single Barn Owl was seen out hunting, the first time ever for one of these walks. We did hear a Tawny hooting though.

Just before Betley Bridge the first Glow Worm of the evening in the grass was spotted – Louise & Bella both saw it first!! At the bridge Louise finally got to grips with her state-of-the-art bat detector, and was able to reveal that somewhere nearby were Common and Soprano Pipistrelles. Three more Glow Worms were spotted on the way back, and a couple of people managed to see brief streaks of Perseid meteors, but by then the sky was more hazy and stars partially obscured. There’s still a chance of seeing them until the end of August, and the best time is after midnight, when the sky is clear, so worth wandering outside if suffering from insomnia for the next week or so!

Thanks to all for coming and for the company.

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)