A mixed group of optimists and pessimists met on Sunday 11th January at 7.45 at the Downslink Car Park in Henfield, and set off by car for Woods Mill to start the 2016 race. Would this be the year we finally found 60 species on the “patch”? At Woods Mill we ticked off all those expected, including 3 Little Grebes, 2 Snipe, and Redpoll, but were slightly disappointed that the Cetti’s Warbler didn’t put in an appearance – either there or by the river . We squelched our way along the stream where we had at least 5 Bullfinches in the thick hedge, and just south of Stretham had a squealing Water Rail. A Short-eared Owl flew quite high by the pylons near the bridge; two passers-by wondered what we were looking at, and were very enthusiastic when we showed them the owl and explained that they were only winter visitors, and didn't come every year. We had just started up the river when Nige C picked out two Little Gulls in among the Black-headeds on the floods. They flew up, giving super views of their black underwings. Another Short-eared Owl flew up almost from the river itself, and sat rather impressively in a tree lit by sunlight. We found 3 Gadwall, a flock of Pintail went over,and on the edge of the floods were Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats and Yellowhammers. A big murmuration of Starlings was whirling around in the distance – 2000-3000?

Back to Stretham and up to Henfield, only adding Sparrowhawk and Coot. House Sparrows were cheeping from bushes as we arrived back at Nep Town, and we saw Collared Doves during lunch while watching the hail hammer down on the covering of the patio. Having yet to find Canada Goose, we headed up to Betley, where we logged plenty of these but fell foul of another hailstorm! Three more Short-eared Owls were seen but nothing else. Pretty dark when we returned to the car park after about 10 miles on foot. No Linnets, Treecreepers, Skylarks or Little Egrets seen today. But despite this and the rain, wind & hail, we were more than satisfied with the day’s efforts of 63 species, especially the “new” race species of Little Gull. (Nigel Colgate, Will Green, Nigel Parsons & Val Bentley).