This morning I elected to head south, to check out the Overlow Pit and Mill Stream. Not a lot happened on the way to the former (aside, that is, from extremely wet feet and trouser bottoms thanks to some long, wet grass on the west bank path between Bineham and Stretham bridges), but arriving at the Pit there were 4 Little Egrets and a Hobby that dashed past heading west. Again it was fairly quiet en route to the Mill Stream, but a Wall Brown butterfly at Stretham Bridge was nice to see.

Walking along the Mill Stream there were several Reed Warbler territories, Skylarks were singing overhead and whilst I couldn’t see any Lapwings in the usual field there was one the other side of the stream. At the eastern wooded end of the Mill Stream there were two Nightingales singing, a Lesser Whitethroat in a tree and a singing Cetti’s Warbler was, like the Nightingales, heard and not seen. Also initially just heard was a purring Turtle Dove, and after a bit of patient waiting one finally appeared on a pylon giving splendid views.

It was bit after the Lord Mayor’s show on the way home via Lepride Farm and South View terrace, with just a Buzzard and a couple of Stock Doves added. There was also my first Painted Lady of the year in the field north of Lepride Farm.

A quick loop of the patch this morning, with the Nightingale nearest Bishop Park choosing to sing this time, and the other one further north still at it too. I believe that makes two territories on this stretch of the Downslink this year. A Cuckoo was also seen/heard west of Chates.

A Red Kite drifted over this afternoon, and whilst watching this I noticed two recently fledged Pied Wagtails with an adult in a neighbour’s garden. This is the fourth year running this species has successfully bred in the area. House Martins are still busy nest building (a survey of nests this year on the estate is to be carried out in due course), and Starlings are now on their second broods. In fact we now have two pairs nesting in our loft!

The Bank Holiday weekend ushered in the Spring Big Bird Bash, and I was to lead a tour around Area 4. It was marketed as an early start in the hope of hearing (and possibly seeing) the Nightingales on the Downslink, and Barn Owls at Betley. Hope being the operative word. I was delighted to have no fewer than eight takers, and after meeting at the car park at 6:30 we headed north up the Downslink to try and see/hear as many species as possible.

Of course, the first Nightingale by Bishop Park was notable by its absence, but luckily the one further up was in fine voice allowing everyone to hear its famous song; try as hard as we might it could not be seen. At Betley Bridge a pair of Yellowhammers were busy nest building, and a bird out on the field south-east of the bridge turned out to be a Red-legged Partridge, a rarish bird for these parts, a decent addition to the Bash list and my first ever one for Henfield.

Heading down river a male Stonchat appeared on a bush, and more importantly as it saved my blushes, up popped a hunting Barn Owl right on cue. Lapwings were seen west of the river, whilst further on by New Inn Reed Warblers were at first heard and then seen.

So with the highlights mentioned above and the more common stuff we managed a total of 40 species, not bad and probably about par. A big thank you to all who joined me despite the early start:

Hazel Haylock, Susan Greenop, Charlotte Stahmann, Alan Burnage, Mark and Hannah Davies, Malcolm Hewlatt and Val.

Another change of scenery today and only my second away day of the year. Standean Bottom, which is nestled in the Downs behind Woodingdean, was the venue with some Downland species the targets. Corn Buntings were the main feature this morning, with several seen including great views of singing males. Their jangling song was heard throughout and I’ve always found this a great area for this declining species. A pleasant surprise though was a Spotted Flycatcher in a small copse on the southern side. This area is also great for butterflies, including Adonis Blues, but as it was an early morning visit there were not any about. However a Wall Brown on the path approaching Standean Bottom was a nice bonus.

This morning I was joined by Tom. We cycled  down to the gate where the Mill Stream meets the Downslink, and after chaining the bikes up walked to Woods Mill and back. The outing was mainly notable for heavy showers and the potency of the coffee Tom brought along. We did still manage to see some birds (although no sign of any Turtle Doves):

Reed Warbler 6, Whitethroat 6, Chiffchaff 3, Blackcap 1; and two heard only with Nightingale and Cetti’s Warbler.

After picking the bikes up we cycled home in the pouring rain, it was that kind of morning.

Once again it was a Sunday morning stroll around “the patch”. Highlights today were the two Nightingales on the Downslink between Bishop Park and Betley, both providing great views whilst singing their little hearts out. The cold dry spring has at least had the advantage of keeping the foliage at bay allowing normally hard to see birds a bit less cover. These two do seem unusually “showy” though. Also of note was a male Cuckoo at Betley.

I was out early in lovely sunshine on the first day of May to carry out the 1st breeding season survey for Area 4, covering the Downslink up to Betley, down the river to New Inn, then east to get back to West End and Stonepit Lanes.
There was a good start with the returning Nightingale Val noted the day before in fine voice just up the Downslink from Bishop Park. Normally a tricky species to actually see, this one acted more like a Song Thrush and sang from the top of a tree giving amazing views. Up to Betley it was mostly common birds enlivened with the odd Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. In the field west of Great Betley Farm an immaculate male Stonechat popped up, giving further hope this species will establish itself as a breeding species in the parish. Down river produced Reed Buntings and singing Yellowhammers and Skylarks; at Chates there was a calling Cuckoo, and along the section of river with the new fencing by New Inn Farm three Reed Warblers were all singing, again giving good views. At Bineham Bridge two Swifts flew over, which I believe are the first for Henfield this year. The leg back home continued with just the common species seen/heard, and a Nuthatch in Stonepit Lane was the last new species I saw before arriving home.

After an absence of seven months as we endure our winter, five House Martins appeared over Bishop Park this afternoon. One checked out a nest that has been used in the last two years so these birds could well be the ones that have nested on the estate since 2019.

Last year there were five active nests in Bishop Park, up from three the previous year, but 2020 seemed to have poor breeding success, especially when compared to 2019. Fingers crossed  they will do better in 2021 and the increase in the number of active nests will continue. I’ll keep the blog updated with their progress!