Trip reports

Farlington Marsh - by Neil Bew

Farlington Marsh - by Neil Bew

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Simon and Mick (oh and Simon's black Labrador) joined me for a gentle lap of Farlington Marsh on what proved to be a mixed morning from the weather viewpoint but an enjoyable one from the bird viewpoint.
High tide was due by the end of the morning, so looking out at the rapidly disappearing mudflats that make up much of Langstone Harbour into which the marsh juts, Farlingtons classic mix of birds was immediately apparent with teal and brent geese in small numbers and amongst the waders, redshank, a single black tailed godwit and good numbers of grey plover showing nicely. Scanning towards the far side of Langstone Harbour was a sight that puzzled me to start with, namely a flotilla of twenty or so avocet. I am more used to seeing these iconic birds wading with that familiar side to side bill motion, not in deep water doing duck impressions.
With the water coming in, we moved down the harbour wall to the lagoon where we found more black tailed godwit and redshank, with the addition of dunlin and a single, very pale spotted redshank standing out nicely from its somewhat duller relatives. Amongst the wildfowl, a single shoveler and a few elegant pintail joined the teal and mallard. Off the south side of the marsh, the remaining islands were rapidly disappearing but still held some waders such as oystercatcher and a number of grey heron and little egret. A little further out in deeper water and showing well, the first ten or so of the days red breasted mergansers, a bird that became a familiar sight on all sides of the harbour, totalling perhaps thirty plus individuals. The days first peregrine flew powerfully from the direction of the marsh and out over the harbour, adding to our first kestrel a few minutes earlier.
The tidal movement, so apparent from the first moment we stepped onto the harbour wall pathway, was causing almost constant movement of waders and wildfowl and the whole area seemed alive with restless movement. In particular, one small island remained above water off the extreme southern tip of the marsh on which were packed an impossibly large number of waders; grey plover, dunlin, the odd turnstone and knot. Inevitably, the water kept piling in and the birds became more restless and took to the air in wheeling flocks. Not on the scale of the Wash of course but a mesmerising sight nonetheless.
Just to balance things up, mother nature decided to throw a modestly violent but very damp, squally shower at us for a few minutes. Having emerged from the shower and back into the sunshine, we picked out more mergansers out on the water, and many more wigeon and particularly brent geese across the marsh. Nice to see a number of youngsters in amongst the adult geese. The youngsters probably weren't that pleased to see the peregrine again but we were, watching in the vain hope that this magnificent raptor would show off its hunting skills. To complete the raptor list for the day, a single common buzzard drifted across the marsh, to be harassed by a couple of carrion crows when it landed.
A good morning in the company of Farlingtons classic marsh and mudflat specialists. Also, the dog was pretty well behaved!

Neil Bew