I started the day at Farlington Marshes where I had to go and check the cattle, thankfully they were all present and correct. The cattle are vital to the maintenance of the grassland but there are some things they will not eat and some of these need some intervention, one the most obvious problem species is spear thistle. To keep these under control we “spud” them, this is cutting through the tap-root at the base of the plant, it is time-consuming but very targeted and avoids the use of pesticides. This is mostly done in the winter but there are always some that get away and now is a good time to deal with them before they flower and set seed. So today I went out into North Marsh and dealt with a few of these rouge thistles. I very rarely get out into the middle of the fields so this is something of a treat for me. To give a feel of the wide open spaces I have stitched together a 360 degree panorama shot (you will need to click on it to see it better).
I also took the chance to check out a few Farlington specialities, in particular the sea clover. This grows in a few places way out in the centre of the marsh and I wanted to check that it was still there, I am pleased to say that it is. Out on Main Marsh it grows along the banks in very short turf and is often no more that 5 to 10cm tall.
It colonised the Hayfield about fifteen years ago, possibly as a result of moving the cattle between the two fields, however it got there it has really liked the conditions and grows well and is much larger, often 20cm or more tall and the plants are generally larger and more upright.
The Hayfield has some good stands of yellow rattle, although I think not so much as there used to be following some years of spring grazing.
Sea clover is one Farlington speciality, not being regularly found anywhere else in Hampshire so far as I know, another is sea barley, this grows just in the fields either side of the main track just east of the Building where the ground is almost bare and gets flooded in winter. It is recognisable a barley with the long awns but rather small compared with other species.
I was at Swanwick in the afternoon and went to see the cattle there as well, they are looking very settled and doing a good job of eating off the tree seedlings and stump regrowth.
As is often the way at this time of year there are not many birds to report from today, a little ringed plover on the Stream near the Building was the first I have seen since the spring. On the same section an adult lapwing with at least one fledged juvenile was good to see and in the reedbed nearby several juvenile bearded tit were flying about. It was also good to see evidence of at least three redshank pairs with chicks as I was out on the fields, let’s hope they can keep them safe until they fledge.