108th Post – The Big Reveal

Im not sure if Bob ever told the story about why he named this blog ‘the 108ft blog’ but to mark the occasion of my 108th post on these pages I thought I should do something to mark the occasion and what better than to answer all those questions of why these pages have such a cryptic name….    

Drumroll please………………

The reason this blog is called the 108ft blog is basically because the height difference between our reserves in the South East Hampshire region (or the Solent Reserves) is roughly 108ft. Farlington is the lowest of our reserves. Unsurprisingly, as it is reclaimed from the sea, it is mostly just below sea-level. Our highest reserve is Hook Heath Meadows, which isn’t really all that high, but is still a modest hundred or so feet above sea level behind Portsdown hill. Thus a difference in height of 108ft.

In double checking our reserves spot heights on an Ordnance Survey map (one way to spend a dark autumnal evening) it turns out our other reserves in the region are quite low too. Swanwick lakes highest  point is only 20 metres (65 foot) above sea level and of course our other coastal reserves (Southmoor, Milton Locks and Pewit Island) are only a couple of metres above the big blue. Indeed most of the south coast of Hampshire is very low and if we are to have the predicated amount of sea level rise in the coming years our coastline will look very different and it will be very interesting to see how we manage this change.

Not one to leave a celebratory post on a downer – Farlington is still playing host to some spectacular bird highlights. Yesterday four Short-eared owls were giving some cracking views. One was using the entirety of the Point field. Quartering all the rough grass, unbothered by people on the seawall. Another three were in the Main Marsh. One concentrating around the deeps while the other two were using the far northern end often crossing paths, having a little squabble, upturning and briefly locking talons.


A natural spectacle in The Point Field


A stunning Short-eared owl. Not sure I’ll ever tire of seeing them.

Other highlights on the reserve yesterday were; 35 Snipe on the newly cut area of reeds at the Lake, 8 Pintail bobbed around in the centre of the lake with a good collection of Teal, Mallard and Wigeon. Looking the other way from the lake view point, out in the harbour were 17 Avocet.  2 Kingfisher also zipped by. Around at The Deeps were 6 Shoveler and on the grass were 80 Brent geese (only 6 were juvenile birds) – the first I’ve seen this winter grazing the marsh. Out in the harbour in a creek of Bakers Island was also a roosting Spoonbill. 


5 thoughts on “108th Post – The Big Reveal

  1. Lovely shots of the Owls. We were there yesterday after the bad weather had passed by. We saw one distant Shortie and the Spoonie plus a Peregrine.
    One thing that disturbed us was two men sat on the sea wall on the east side. Both had guns and a gun dog.They were keeping a low profile. Are people allowed to go shooting here. And what would they be targeting I wonder? I had the foresight to take a picture of them.

    • Hi Ian, Thanks for the comments on the Owl photos – they really are stunning birds.
      In regards to the Wildfowlers (the men with guns at FM) they are allowed to shoot (duck species and Canada geese) in the harbor in season but they are not allowed to shoot on the seawall or towards the reserve. This has long been the agreement with the crown estate, Portsmouth city council, rspb and ourselves.

      • Hi Rob?
        Many thanks for your reply.
        Just to clarify. If they are not allowed to shoot towards the reserve or on the seawall. doesn’t this pretty much exclude them from the area itself, or if they are, whereabouts would this be, especially in an area quite populated with people out walking and such a diversity of birdlife?
        I understand they can shoot any area below the high water mark of ordinary spring tides in the shooting season.(Sep1 to Feb 20)
        As I am concerned about conserving our wildlife, anyone killing killing them for fun/sport – always a blurred line for me – does upset me somewhat. Especially as so many people enjoy the nature on show at such a unique oasis next to the hustle and bustle of a city. Plus who is there – apart from the public- to witness what species they do actually kill? This seems such a contradiction to me – A nature reserve, but also killing fields.
        My apologies for being so pedantic, but as I have become accustomed over the years… question everything.

        Kind regards
        Ian Smith

  2. Hi Ian,

    Not a problem to question this, I can understand that these actions seem conflicting with the sole intention of the nature reserve.

    The Langstone & District Wildfowlers and Conservation Association are a long standing local group who have had an agreement with all the relevant partners in the harbor for nearly 60 years – longer than the wildlife trust has managed farlington. They always provide the data for what they shoot and the species of what they shoot is always closely policed by the group or any of the harbor partners. Also the number of birds they can shoot is limited (only a small number is ever annually taken) and the group pride themselves in eating what they shoot.

    The wildfowlers are allowed access across the nature reserve on the main access tracks. But must not shoot on the seawall or towards the reserve. This is the agreement with Portsmouth City Council who own the whole of Farlington Marshes (we [HIWWT] only manage it on a lease). This is often when they are seen and come into contact with the public before they head out into the harbor.

    Also the controlled and licensed shooting activities in the harbor reduces the likelihood of poaching and helps the RSPB, Portsmouth City Council and ourselves keep a track of the groups activities. If this was to become unsustainable, serious questions would be asked about the future operations of the group.

    If you see anything contradicts what I have stated please do get in touch. The group often operate just after dawn so for Trust staff to warden the reserve at these times every day would be unfeasible so visitor observations are incredibly important. So please do get in contact if you see anything that looks strange.

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Rob.
      Many thanks for taking the time for your detailed reply.
      It makes me feel a little better knowing they shouldn’t be trigger happy indiscriminately!
      Rest assured I will report any unusual behaviour. As I did originally.
      I hope to visit this weekend in the hope of a closer view of the shorties.
      My thanks again

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s