Retrospective Counting

Last Saturday I headed down to Farlington to help with the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS).  It was an amazingly still morning so before catching up with the team I headed out along the seawall to look over the lake and the surrounding reedbeds. In the previous calm mornings there had been good groups of Bearded tit (upto 30 some mornings) busy feeding on the reed seedheads so I was keen to see if there were any on this morning. My luck was in, although there were only 6 fairly far away and there were also 3 Reed buntings. Also out in the harbour was a Red-breasted merganser fishing for its breakfast.  

Bearded tit

Bearded tit


Female Red-breasted Merganser

The morning was stunning and with the sun slung low in the sky, shining through the mist I tried not to get too distracted taking pictures and headed to catch up with our WeBS team at the hut.  After a quick chat and hightide fastly approaching we separated into two bird finding teams – one heading clockwise around the reserve and the other anticlockwise. I headed with the clockwise team, firstly counting the Hayfield and then onto the tricky task of counting birds in the long grass on North Binness Island. Out on N.Biness the most abundant bird was the Brent goose (around 350) and second was Grey plover (in a relatively small flock of 49). Other highlight was a Short-eared owl sat perched in a dead tree.


After the island counts we moved our attention to the main marsh. There were good numbers of Oystercatcher (85) busy feeding along with Curlew (75), Wigeon (198), Brent goose (620) and surprisingly Golden plover (19), which are uncommonly seen on the marsh. One thing that was soon apparent was the amazingly large number of Lapwing on the reserve.  Scoping across the north marsh I counted 487, which were shortly followed by flocks of 78, 50 and 48 birds flying in from the east. They were incredibly flighty throughout the whole days counting but we estimated there had to be close to 800 Lapwing across the marsh ! We continued on to the Deeps, meeting up with the other anticlockwise team. Out on the deeps were the usual waterfowl; Shoveller (38), Wigeon (98), Gadwall (18) and Pintail (33) to name but a few.

Other highlights during the day were a male Marsh harrier, Merlin on the trees of North Binness and 2 Slavonian Grebe out between Bakers Island and the point.  

I look forward to receiving the bird totals for the day from across the reserve and the wider Langstone harbour. I certainly don’t envy the number cruncher who has to collate and make sense of sightings from 7 counters…!


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