Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Farlington Marshes on Thursday 27th February 2020

Mid-week Walk at Farlington Marshes on Thursday 27th February 2020
Brent geese and wigeons. (Steve Williams)

Monday, 13 April 2020

Weather: Mostly overcast, with sunny spells and a strong cold 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.

Driving over the North Downs in a snow storm did not augur well for a morning's bird watching on the south coast. However, by the time I got as far as the South Downs the snow had stopped and things were looking up. At Farlington I found that Alan, Marion, Ron and Nigel had already arrived and were checking out the mud flats from the sheltered car park. The only birds close to us were some Brent geese. Everything else, avocets, grey plover, oyster catchers, curlew, redshank, black-headed gulls and shelduck were all some distance away.

We set off clockwise around the reserve and made our way towards the large pond. In the trees and shrubs we all saw song thrush, goldfinch, greenfinch and, on a fence, a stonechat. On the other side were a variety of ducks including shoveler, teal and few common gulls and a solitary great black-backed gull. As the tide was a long way out the pond was sparsely populated with a few gulls, wigeon and moorhen; all the waders were feeding on the mud.

As we continued our way around the coastal path we became aware that the wind was much stronger away from the protection of the coastline. As we braced ourselves against the wind we saw a skylark, meadow pipit, little egret and turnstone. We then noticed several small flocks of small waders which had been put up by the incoming tide, one of which obligingly landed close enough to us to identify a couple of ringed plovers amongst the 200 or so dunlin. On the reserve something caused the large numbers of starlings, lapwings and Brent geese to fly up in the air. The shelduck were made of sterner stuff and remained on the ground.

On the eastward side of the reserve is a series of ponds called "The Deeps". Here we saw three new species of duck, mallard, gadwall and tufted duck, and other waterfowl including coot, mute swan, great crested and little grebe. Out in the bay we got good views of several red-breasted mergansers, although holding the binoculars steady was, by now, a challenge in the wind. On the opposite bank of the river a solitary grey plover watched as the tide came within a few feet of it. As we neared the path back towards the car park we saw very large flocks of small waders, probably dunlin, in the distance. By now the tide was completely in and there was nowhere for them to land and feed.

The path back to the car park initially passes between fields and here were many more Brent and Canada geese. In the bushes there were robins and blackbirds and then the unmistakable sound of a Cetti's warbler. This one obviously did not know the "be heard and not seen" drill and gave us a brief glimpse as it perched on a bush before flying off. Back at the car park we had very good views of our only raptor of the day, a kestrel.

Thank you to those who braved the horrible weather on the way down there and then enjoyed a blustery day by the sea.

Steve Williams