About robertc2011

Reserves Officer for Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, mostly working at Blashford Lakes, Ringwood.

WARNING – Farlington Marshes to be Avoided Tomorrow

It seems very likely that tomorrow will see significant flooding at Farlington Marshes with a high spring tide (predicted at 5m) combined with strong winds and low pressure. Under these conditions it is quite possible for the tide to not just break over the wall but to flood over. The high will be at 12:20, so setting off around the wall at anytime after early morning will be potentially very dangerous, you do not want to get caught at the Point in these conditions! There is also a very real risk that the wall could breach completely in which case the majority of the site will go under water, perhaps to several metres depth in places.

Please do not go down to the Marsh tomorrow and be aware that it is probable that the effect of the storm will also make access difficult for some time ahead.

 

Advertisements

Brimstone, Beardies and a Rainbow Dog

I was at Farlington for a couple of hours yesterday and a very fine day it was too, warm and sunny. We went north of the road to check a few things and saw a male brimstone butterfly, my first for over a month.

December brimstone

December brimstone

After  checking the sluices that gave us so much trouble last month we headed back to the Building where several bearded tit were calling in the reedbed and a marsh harrier was very briefly seen before dropping down behind the reeds.

Looking down at the Stream I counted at least 32 moorhen from the Building, with slightly more to the north than the south, there must be well over fifty on the reserve as a whole. Otherwise the birds were the usual suspects, lots of brent geese, although no sign of the black brant that we could see and the best was a water pipit that flew off calling from the top of North Marsh as we walked by.

As we prepared to leave there was a particularly fine sun dog in the sky to the south-west.

Sun Dog at Farlington

Sun Dog at Farlington

A Very Successful Morning

When I was at Farlington Marsh on Tuesday it was obvious that there was a large scale leak of seawater coming onto the reserve from a tidal flat owned by the Highways agency alongside the A27 to the east of the reserve. Being a brackish marsh some seawater influence is a good thing, lots of rare species are specially adapted to allow them to live in a range of brackish conditions where some more robust competitors cannot survive, so these slightly salty habitats are very important. However being brackish, which is to say a bit salty, is quite a different thing from being flooded with seawater, which is what the leaking tidal flap was causing to happen. So I contacted the Highways Agency to get it sorted out, as even a few days of this scale of flooding would be quite damaging to the reserve. Because the flooding happens at high tide it is not possible to see into the sluice then as it is underwater, so on Friday morning I went back when I knew the tide would be low to see if the problem had been fixed and if not to see what it was.

I arrived I on a fine morning and set off to look at the sluice, as I walked east from the Building I saw a water pipit with 2 meadow pipit beside a puddle in North Marsh.

water pipit

water pipit

I continued and as I went by the Hayfield I noticed that there were three grey geese with the brents, a family of European white-fronted geese, decidedly rare visitors these days.

white-fronted geese

white-fronted geese

The two adults were very well marked with strong belly bars, their offspring is the middle bird in this shot. White-fronts once visited Hampshire in good numbers and the Avon valley would host hundreds every winter, but now very few come to southern England at all, milder winters and greater food availability mean most stay in Holland for the winter.

All these birds were very nice, but it was not getting the sluice sorted, if it did still need doing. I headed up and off the reserve and climbed down the seawall to look into the outfall and this is what I saw.

the problem

the problem

The tidal flap valve had an old fence post wedging it open, so that when the tide rises the seawater would just flow inwards. This si an easy problem to fix, you just need to lift the metal flap and pull out the obstruction, obviously nobody from Highway Agency had been down to sort it out, so I decided to do it myself. Although it is an easy job there is a problem, the flap is behind a metal grill, about 2m behind actually so you cannot reach it without specialist tools, so I headed off back to the building to make some.

the solution

the solution

Ok, so this is not exactly precision tool making in the greatest British tradition, but they do the job, one pole with an angle bracket to lift the flap valve and another to pull out the fence post, a couple of minutes work and the job was done and normal salinity restored.

Heading back to the building I was rewarded with the sight of a marsh harrier over the reedbed, an immature with an outer secondary missing from the left wing, so a distinctive bird. after putting the tools away I got ready to leave and saw a marsh harrier again, but this was not missing a feather and was an adult male, then the two were flying about together. Although marsh harrier are much more frequent now, I still very rarely see adult males.

As I left the reserve I ha done last highlight, a group of 3 avocet on the mud just beside the roundabout, all in all a very rewarding and successful morning. Then it was off to the office to complete the interviewing fro my successor, after such a good morning on the reserve I could not help wondering if I had made a terrible mistake!

 

Not Seeing the Trees

I was in the office attending to paperwork for pretty much the whole day and for much of it I was not unhappy to be there as the rain tipped down outside, but the rain stopped and it is hard to stay in all day. So I had a quick walk down Vicarage Lane and back.

Vicarage Lane

Vicarage Lane

The leave are either falling from the trees or rapidly changing colour now.

leaves changing

leaves changing

I have walked along the lane a good few times and often keep a note of the birds I see and hear, but I realised today that I don’t take much notice of the trees. This fact was brought home when I found that there is a wild service tree at the end of the lane which I had never noticed before. This is quite a scarce tree and usually indicates old woodland, this tree has two stems and is growing on top of the roadside bank at the junction and hangs right out over the road.

wild service tree

wild service tree

 

 

Late Autumn Sunshine

I know I said I was not going to post again, but I happened to be at Swanwick and Farlington again today so I will anyway!

As often happens when you change jobs there are things that don’t quite get finished and today I was trying to make up for a couple of tasks left undone. First at Swanwick for a couple of hours helping out a contractor with an interpretation project and then at Farlington to sort out security issues with the gates.

The morning was cold but very bright and Swanwick was looking very good indeed.

Centre Lake Swanwick

Centre Lake Swanwick

I also tried a rather different view, this is also the Lake, in fact it is just the Lake, if you see what I mean.

The Lake surface

The Lake surface

It is actually just the surface of the water, the trees and sky are just reflections, the image is also inverted. The sun brought out some dragonflies again and there were at least 4 common darter basking on the dipping platform.

late autumn common darter

late autumn common darter

Then I was off to Farlington. There are good numbers of brent on the fields now and in the top of North Marsh I saw a flock of 980 including one smart black brant, unfortunately my camera refused to focus on it properly so my best  picture is very poor indeed, but I am going to post it anyway!

a bad picture of a black brant

a bad picture of a black brant

Also at Farlington I saw another common darter and a water pipit.

A Darter, a Rail and a Fisher

I know I am no longer officially within the 108ft area, but on Friday I was at Swanwick Lakes interviewing for the new Reserves Officer and hopefully keen 108ft blogger. During a break in proceedings I went down to the Centre Lake in the sunshine and was rewarded with a late common darter basking on one of the handrails.

a late common darter

a late common darter

This is not my latest ever but getting close, it was also not the only interesting bit of wildlife that I saw, there wa sa water rail just beside the path as well. Right at the end of the day we were also rewarded with a kingfisher perched beside the dipping pond.

The Migrant, the Killer and the Alien

Although I left too early to check the trap this morning, I did spot an interesting migrant moth in the box as I covered it over. So when I got home I knew I had something of interest, although it turned out to be the only thing of note. It was the migrant Pyralid moth Palpita vitralis a very beautiful, pearly white species with glass-like wings.

Palpita vitralis

Palpita vitralis

I was in the office for most of the day, but I did get out for a short while later in the afternoon as I had agreed to check on the cattle at Hookheath as Rob was busy at Milton Locks. The cattle are looking well and doing a good job, although they were at the very furthest end of the reserve so it took me a while to find them. As there seem to be almost everywhere I go, there were lots of fungi about including one big group of what I think were honey fungus, growing on a dead fallen trunk. Honey fungus is a parasite that can kill even large trees, but will also attack shrubs and even perennial herbaceous plants.

honey fungus

honey fungus

One big advantage of having cattle grazing is that they eat the Himalayan balsam plants, these invasive garden escapees are especially problematic on wetland sites where they can dominate native plants, but they are very attractive to livestock, so grazing can control it pretty effectively. It is strange how some aliens species get lots of attention, while others seem to go about their business almost unremarked. One such is Michaelmas daisy, which seems to be increasingly common, I found a large clump just outside the reserve as I left.

Michaelmas daisy

Michaelmas daisy clump