Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Farlington Marshes

Mid-week Walk at Farlington Marshes
Peter Hambrook

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Weather: Thick overcast with occasional light to moderate rain. Wind light SW 13C
Despite dismal weather on the journey down, seven of us persevered and had a good day's birding at this coastal site. With the high tide some 17 minutes after arrival we hit the perfect time, although by luck rather than judgement as this trip was planned back around June time.
The harbour was naturally devoid of waders but we found a small group of red-breasted mergansers, a couple of great crested grebes and a mixed gull flock including common and lesser black-backed. The scrub held several bedraggled woodpigeons, a kestrel and a song thrush, while the first stretch of rough grassland held several Canada geese, an almost white 'farmyard' greylag type goose and the first of several little egrets that we were to see. The bomb crater sheltered some mallards and a couple of moorhens.
The wader roost pool was covered with birds, with masses of dunlin, black-tailed godwit, lapwing, grey plovers, avocets and teal and lesser numbers of snipe, pintail, shelduck, shoveler, redshank, wigeon and a single ringed plover. At this point Steve spotted a raven on a post and we had a good view of this and it was eventually joined by its mate and some mutual preening ensued. Not an everyday sight at this location, although they do breed on the Isle of Wight. As we moved on we found just about the only island still above water and this contained several curlews, a group of oystercatchers and a couple of turnstones. On the water nearby was a group of Brent geese and we were to see many more of these during the day.
Heading further along the sea wall we found a pair of stonechats, a wren, a skylark and some had a brief glimpse of what was probably a kingfisher, although the colours didn't stand out in the poor light. Out on the grazing marsh were more wigeon, curlews and Canada geese plus a single barnacle goose. A small bird on floating weed in the harbour alongside the sea wall proved to be a rock pipit and this was accompanied by a pied wagtail, also not averse to getting its feet wet in the briny. Other birds in this area were a single male pheasant, blackbirds, a grey heron, flocks of starlings and several magpies. Sadly the short-eared owls appeared not to be in residence on this occasion, or were hunkered down out of sight in the miserable conditions.
Walking back down the eastern side of the marsh we found more red-breasted mergansers on the deeper water and a pair of goldeneye plus what was, strangely, the only sighting of the day of a cormorant, drying its wings in the far distance. The eastern side pools held a party of oystercatchers and several gadwalls while reed buntings and a robin graced the reed bed and marginal vegetation.
Heading back towards the cars we had close views of two Brent geese which seemed unconcerned by our presence and a walk across the grass path back towards the wader pool added a green woodpecker, black-headed gulls, blue tits, great tits, a fly-over herring gull, a buzzard - spotted by Ron, and several rabbits. Final new birds for the day were a small group of long-tailed tits as we reached the cars.
Despite the dismal weather and occasional showers we had a brilliant day's bird-watching and it was good to see birds not normally available on our more usual inland walks, with over 50 species seen by the group. My thanks to those who braved the traffic congestion around our local area to join Steve and myself and who were not put off by the miserable drive down.
PETER HAMBROOK