Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Farlington Marshes Wednesday 20th March 2019

Mid-week Walk at Farlington Marshes Wednesday 20th March 2019
Pair of pintail at Farlington Marshes 20MAR19 (Steve Williams)

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Weather: overcast, mild with a moderate wind.
Farlington Marshes is a 300 acre reserve in Langstone Harbour that is managed by Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. There are a variety of habitats including grazing marsh, a lake, meadows and the foreshore and there is usually something interesting to see.

When I arrived Alan and Ron were peering into a bramble covered bush playing hide and seek with a Cetti's warbler. The Cetti's, as usual, was winning and that set the tone for the day.

We started off by walking to the lake and on the way saw a variety of finches including good numbers of greenfinch, which was nice given their falling population in recent years. We also saw a female stonechat, several little egrets and a lot of Brent geese. We also heard, but did not see, a couple of wrens and another Cetti's.

At the lake there were good numbers of black-tailed godwit and redshank. There were also about 20 avocets. They seem to like Farlington and can be seen there all year round. Ron picked out a snipe in the reeds and there were a few snoozing greenshank. We scanned the reed beds for bearded reedling for some time but to no avail. We did, however, see the first of several male wheatears in the grass beyond the lagoon.

As it was high tide and it would be some time before any of the foreshore was available for the waders we decided to cross to the west side of the reserve and to walk clockwise along the sea wall. The first part of the route follows a stream which is usually popular with gulls, waders and waterfowl. On this occasion it was mainly gulls, black-headed, common, herring and about eight very smart Mediterranean gulls, with their jet black heads and white eye rings. As we walked we watched the top of the reed bed and eventually we all got fleeting glimpses of bearded reedling as they flew along the tops of the reeds before disappearing. In the bushes alongside the path we got good views of a chiffchaff and where the path meets the track we heard, but did not see, a song thrush and yet another Cetti's.

From the stream the path to the sea wall passes along a track with gazing land on both sides. Here we saw wigeon, lots of shelduck and curlew feeding. As we watched a raptor passed overhead and flew directly away from us so it took us a little while to realise it was a marsh harrier.

On reaching the seawall a skylark landed in the field close by and gave some of us good views. In the harbour we spotted great crested grebe and a distant, smaller grebe, possibly black-necked, but it was too far away to be sure. In the small lakes alongside the sea wall we saw shoveler, tufted duck, gadwall and a pair of pintail, the male looking especially striking. As we neared the most southerly part of the reserve we saw a raft of red-breasted mergansers and, on a very small, newly emerged island, a great many oystercatchers crowded together. There were cormorants on another, larger island and some stones doing cormorant impressions on another. Looking inland we added, dunnock and linnet to our list. As we walked back on the western edge of the reserve the only addition we made was Sandwich tern, clearly identifiable by its mostly black bill.

As we neared our cars another Cetti's warbler called out to us from the depths of a bush and yet again we could not see it. I then got a glimpse of a brown bird as it flew from that bush to another. The next Cetti's call came from the bush into which the bird had flown. Had I seen the Cetti's? Were there two and I had seen something else? I will never know.

That brought to an end a very productive walk. By my count 49 species seen and three others, song thrush, wren and yes, Cetti's, only heard. Thanks to those who came down to Farlington for what was a very pleasant walk.
STEVE WILLIAMS