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.


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!

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

We have reached the end of our year of concentrated garden birdwatching.  The final week  finishes on Saturday 28th December.  You may now be breathing a sigh of relief, or maybe one of disappointment!  Thank you so much for being a part of it – even if you haven’t managed to keep watch every week!

I’m not really up to speed with the data recording system, but it does look as though you can continue to record your sightings during 2020 if you would like to carry on, and we will still be able to pick up from the website what you may see in your gardens in the future.

In the New Year we will start to look at the totals of the different species recorded, compare with past surveys we have done, and with national statistics too, to see how things have been changing in the last 20 years.

I’m not sure that many villages will have quite so many records of peacocks as we seem to have!

We do hope that you have enjoyed watching your garden birds, and will continue do so in 2020.

A very Happy New Year from Henfield Birdwatch!!

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.


(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.