Chilly Wheatears and a Frozen Ouzel

I arrived at the Marsh in rain and a freezing wind, seriously questioning the wisdom of going at all, however it was a day when it was well worth visiting. The rain stopped almost immediately and I set off expecting to have a quick dash round before the weather closed in again, in fact it remained dry all day, although I have rarely seen the fields so wet.

floods around the Deeps

floods around the Deeps

When I got to the Deeps the red-breasted goose was close to the wall and bathing vigorously.

red-breasted goose bathing

red-breasted goose bathing

It was getting itself into some very odd positions.

red-breasted goose bathing

red-breasted goose bathing

Having a bath when you are waterproof is quite difficult.

red-breasted goose bathing

red-breasted goose bathing

After the wash comes the brush-up.

red-breasted goose preening

red-breasted goose preening

There lots of hard to reach places.

red-breasted goose preening

red-breasted goose preening

red-breasted goose preening

red-breasted goose preening

After all this maintenance it did look very smart.

red-breasted goose

red-breasted goose

In the field just inside the south wall three male wheatear were my first of the year and looking, as they always do, very fine indeed, they were accompanied by a pair of stonechat, newly in as there has only been a single female recently. A water pipit on a shallow flood nearby was also a good find. Walking round to the Bushes I was alerted to a female ring ouzel feeding under a hawthorn bush, a real treat, we get them fairly regularly in autumn, but spring sightings are rare.

female ring ouzel

female ring ouzel

Yes, I know it is not a good picture!

Over the reedbed the female marsh harrier was again hunting and occasionally flushing the ducks and on one occasion a flock of at least 60 snipe.

marsh harrier

marsh harrier

This shot has out of focus shelduck and pintail in it as well, the next has out of focus everything, but the everything includes marsh harrier and spoonbill!

marsh harrier and spoonbill

marsh harrier and spoonbill

Other sightings during the day included 8 golden plover, at least three of which were in breeding plumage, 9 or more chiffchaff and 3 greylag geese. You might not think much of the greylag record, there are large feral populations in Hampshire  these days, however we don’t get many at Farlington and at this time of year with these wind conditions these three must a very good chance of being Scandinavian birds which winter in Iberia. They spent the day hiding out in the middle of the Marsh on their own.

At the Deeps the pair of mute swan have started nest-building, so perhaps spring is still in the air somewhere, the skylarks were singing despite the bitter cold, so they seem to agree. In th eafternoon I did also manage to see a single slavonian grebe off the Point, but looking into the Harbour was difficult in the stiff breeze.

I also came across one of the “brantish” geese, there have been more reports of black brant in recent days, although I have still to see a really convincing one this winter. This bird, although a female and so not likely to be as bright as a gander, still does not look the full brant to me, although it must surely have some brant genes in it somewhere.

brantish goose

brantish goose

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