Trip reports

Farlington Marshes

Farlington Marshes
Neil Bew

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A cold morning in February saw seven members of the group ready for a breezy walk around one of my favourite south coast sites. Farlington is a mix of open marsh, reed bed and some pools enclosed by a sea wall, a wall that keeps out the waters of Langstone Harbour during high tide and overlooks acres of glorious mud for the rest of the time.

The tide was out but on the turn as we began and the mud revealed a nice mix of waders; grey plover, redshank, ringed plover, dunlin, the occasional curlew and a distant pair of avocet. Nosing amongst the seaweed were a number of attractive turnstone with the more obvious and noisy oystercatcher. Looking beyond the mud and out to one of the deeper channels in the harbour, a small number of red breasted merganser were evident sporting the admittedly clichéd 'punk hairdo' and always a welcome sight (I was back at Farlington two weeks later and saw perhaps forty of these streamlined sawbills).

Turning inwards to look over the marsh itself, the dominant view is of thousands of brent geese, small, neat dark geese that use these and many other southern marshes as a winter haven away from their arctic breeding grounds. Every once in a while, the geese are disturbed and take to the air in an always inspiring sight. Sometimes, as today, the disturbance is caused by a marauding peregrine, another winter specialist of these open marshes. Other wildfowl spread across the marsh included wigeon and pintail, the former outnumbering the latter although pintail wins when it comes to elegance and class.

There is a small lake on the western side of the marsh which fronts a good sized reed bed. I have spent some time checking the edges of that reed bed for water rail with mixed success and today, no success. It did however reveal, if briefly, a couple of bearded tits which appear well established here. Just past the lake, was this little egret, seemingly unworried by passing birdwatchers (dog walkers, children, guys on bikes etc) sufficient for me to take a number of close up photos through the scope.

Bird of the day? That honour belongs to short eared owl, three of them no less and at pretty close range. One sat in the long grass really no more than a few yards from the sea wall until something attracted its attention and it flew, pushing two more into the air. Farlington is a reliable site for these magnificent owls and I have seen them several times here and elsewhere. However, the magic of seeing any owl at close range never leaves me and today was no different. Ron deserves the honour for finding these by simply noticing that a couple of other birdwatchers were peering at something intently so we, initially Frank, strode back to the spot (for we had passed these birds without knowing) and enjoyed brilliant views.

Thanks to all who joined me for an enjoyable morning.

Neil Bew