Sightings for the Week Ending 23/07/17

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marbled white (mike smith)

Things are starting to pick up again at Farlington. Lots of waders around with large numbers starting to build of black-tailed godwits, redshank and oyster catchers. There are several common sandpipers on the stream and a little ringed plover has been seen. The avocet are loafing around on the lake with the two recently fledged birds which are slightly brown on the top.

There are plenty of young birds around. I saw young chiffchaffs and  marsh tit at Swanwick Lakes the other day as well as the hoards of blue tits and great tits.

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silver washed fritillary (mike smith)

There was a grey seal spotted in the harbour the other day as well. Unusual in the  area as common seals tend to dominate. This was seen at the end of the muddy spit south of the reserve.

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White admiral (Mike Smith)

Purple emperors are flying at Swanwick Lakes and are a great spot if you’re lucky enough. Silver washed fritillary and white admiral seem to be abundant this year and can be seen at Hookeath meadows as well. Gatekeepers and marbled whites are also on the wing in excellent numbers. Whilst working at Farlington there were a great deal of common blues in the bushes area of the site as well as small heaths.

Dragons are patrolling many of the sites, with emperors, common hawkers, broad bodied chasers and black tailed skimmers being some of the most common as well as numerous damselflies such as common blues, blue tailed and red eyed.

All in all a good week with all the joys of the summer invertebrates but with a rapidly building bird population as some of the migrants start to return.

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Broad Bodied Chaser

A successful season

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Avocets

It is a turning point in the season and though many of you will be distressed to hear, it is swiftly running into autumn. In fact, the autumn migration has already begun! Farlington is slowly filling with waders, brightly coloured godwits, still clinging on to their rusty summer plumage, dunlin with their black bellies and common sandpipers up and down the ditches across the marsh. There was even a little ringed plover on the scrape the other day.

If you have frequented Farlington throughout the spring and summer you will no doubt have noticed the Lapwing and Redshank buzzing around, calling and dive bombing any crows or other potential predators. These are our regular breeders and both had a good year with 15 territories for the lapwing and 5 for the redshank. There has also been another addition this year to our breeding wader assemblage.

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I am very pleased to announce that we have had, for the first time ever in the known history of Farlington, breeding Avocets! This is a fantastic result for the reserve and we’re all very pleased.

There is no real reason that  I can point out as to why they have suddenly decided to breed. This winter saw record numbers roosting on the site so perhaps some took a fancy. With poor success at other sites in the areas due to a number of very tricky issues they may have just given up and moved on.

It hasn’t been a complete success however. I counted 10 chicks in total from potentially 4 broods. One of these was a second go from a pair that had all their eggs stolen by a crow. I watched it fly in over the course of 30 mins or so and steadily empty the nest. I was, to put it mildly, livid! Out of the 10 chicks, as far as I can tell, only two have fully fledged. Not a great success but when compared to other sites in the local area, a much higher percentage. There may be a few hiding but it looks like the younger ones have been picked off by a Buzzard.

Now, this may sound like a bit of a disaster but we have a bird that has never shown any sign of nesting at Farlington and we have had 4 pairs attempt. We have also had up to 16 adults around. These were probably failed breeders from elsewhere or non breeders that have helped protect the other nests and chicks. It also means that hopefully they will all come back next year and attempt to breed.

You also have to bear in mind that we were completely unprepared for this. They suddenly just appeared and started to breed. We can therefore put measures in place next year to give them a helping hand and boost the local numbers.

All in all it has been really nice to gain a breeding bird rather than losing one which is more often than not the case nowadays.

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Summer is here

I’ve not posted in a little while. A mixture of being very busy, very relaxed (on holiday) and more recently very hot. Working in thirty degree heat over the last couple of days has been somewhat taxing.

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It is starting to happen though. Invertebrate life is springing into action all over our reserves and as things quieten down with the bird life, we stop looking up and start staring intently into the long grass.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t any decent birds around.

Farlington Marshes nature reserve has had the usual, a mob of black-tailed godwits chattering away by the building or on the deeps. They were joined the other week by a stunning male ruff, in full breeding plumage. this chap has been frequenting various sites around the Solent for a few weeks now. There have also been a lot of bearded tits showing off in the reed bed.

The meadow browns have emerged en mass across most of our sites. Swanwick and Hookheath in particular. We have also seen silver washed fritillaries, white admirals and marbled whites, with at least one purple emperor reported as well.

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Swanwick Lakes nature reserve has also had its fair share of dragons. A walk through on Friday afternoon saw Emperor, black-tailed skimmer, red-eyed damselfly, golden-ringed, common blue, blue-tailed and small red damselfly. There have also been downy emeralds seen regularly, but not by me, despite a lot of trying.

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The orchids this year have been exceptional. North-east meadow at Swanwick Lakes nature reserve has had the most ever, as has Hookheath. Farlington has had a very good year, with common spotted and southern marsh orchids filling the top of the hay field and pyramidal orchids scattered along the path.

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All in all its been a good, yet warm, couple of weeks – and over the next couple, we should see a bigger emergence of species like marbled whites, gatekeepers and a few more silver washed.

Sightings for week ending 14/05/2017

It’s been a pretty mixed week, with the start nice and sunny and the end, some well-deserved rain and we still have migrants coming in! The swifts have started to turn up and there are generally more hirundines across all the sites. Swanwick Lakes had a big flock of house martins over it the other night whilst I was stomping around doing and evening survey.

The seals have been quite obvious recently. If you take a scope to the southern end of Farlington Marshes and look across the mud flats at low tide, there is almost always several, hauled out along the creek that runs near to the aggregates port. Whilst sitting having lunch at Southmoor yesterday, one popped its head up just off the shore. Always exciting seeing a seal. Love them!

For me, the stars of the show this week have been the grey plover on the main lake at Farlington. They are in their breeding plumage and are absolutely stunning. The little terns have also been making themselves known. At high tide they come really close to the sea wall, fishing right on the edge,. Perfect opportunity for some shots of terns disappearing into the water.

The usual around otherwise. A marsh harrier has been spotted a lot, the short eared owl is still around, surprisingly, and the yellow wagtails are regularly in among the cattle on the main marsh. In the bushes there are lesser whitethroat around.

There was a cuckoo calling at Swanwick on Monday, the only one across all my sites this year (that I have heard anyway). There has also been a garden warbler singing away and a firecrest. These are both good records for the site, with potentially breeding firecrest a new record.

We’ve had a couple of rough weeks for butterflies. We have struggled to get our survey work done as it’s actually been quite chilly during the days. Wednesday wasn’t too bad though with highlights at Swanwick and Hookheath being, green hairstreak, holly blue and small copper. There was also a hairy dragonfly and beautiful demoiselle recorded.

A Helping Hand

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The lapwing have been nesting across the marsh, as have a number of other ground nesting species such as redshank, skylark and meadow pipits. They are very vulnerable at this time of year and so we do a few things to help give them a helping hand.

I’ve had a few questions recently about some of the things that we have done so I thought a blog post may help answer some of these questions. The main one that has come across is to do with the spikes that we have put on many of the fence posts around the main marsh. These are to deter avian predators such as crows, buzzards and magpies from perching all day and scanning the site for vulnerable eggs or chicks.

There has been some very nice studies produced that show the effect of vantage points on nesting success in ground nesting birds such as lapwing. One study saw that lapwing would not nest within, on average,  50 metres of a potential perching point. Therefore to maximise the number of territories within a site you have to deter birds from perching on all the very convenient posts that we have placed for them with our fencing.

We have had to look at natural vantage positions as well. Hedgerows with standards and high points act in the same way, allowing predators to comfortably sit and observe. This in mind, we dropped the height on many of the hedgerows in strategic places around the main marsh. This will be a staged approach where we will do some each year so that there is still plenty of nesting opportunities for species like sedge warbler and whitethroats but within a few years we will have all the hedges at a manageable height. Most of the work that we have done, the hedges are still bulky enough to have birds nesting in any way.

The next step is with the cattle. I have put in 36 cows into the main marsh. This is a fine balance between having too many and increasing the chance of squashing a nest and having too few and the grass be too long for the chicks to feed. Lapwing chicks need areas of short vegetation to feed on, gleaning invertebrates off the surface.

It’s an important balance that needs to be struck. Do you dissuade all predators across the site? Do you leave a natural level? What is a natural level? What you have to bear in mind is that when natural levels of predators existed there was a much more natural coastline where sites shifted and changed each year with coastal erosion and drift. This means that there were many more places for these bird species to nest. Now there are very few and Farlington Marshes nature reserve represents an important site in the area. A bad year here has significant effects on numbers in the area.

Sightings week ending – Easter!

gv whiteNice to have a long weekend, it means that I can actually get out birding and hopefully do a bit of ringing!

It’s been another glorious week and you have to wonder when the run of good weather will break, though as I write this clouds are amassing over my house. Maybe a bit of bad weather would be good though, as the migrants seem to be flying straight through. A low cloud base for a few days and we might see a fall.

There have been some migrants around. A cracking male Wheatear has been along the south edge of the marsh at Farlington. There has also been a Redstart in the bushes, plenty of Whimbrel in the harbour and I saw my first Little Tern on Thursday. There are also Reed Warbler, Sedges and Blackcaps all over the site. The resident Cettis are very noisy and the Linnets are singing really well all the way around the point field. There was a Marsh Harrier on Thursday for half an hour or so.

There are still two Avocets on the deeps which is looking very promising but I don’t want to jinx it.

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Hook heath Meadows is currently glorious, full of Ramsoms, Bluebells, Wood Anemone, Red Campion and a number of other really nice woodland plants. There was also a Mandarin hanging around a suitable looking nesting hole. Not a native but an impressive looking fowl and I certainly have nothing against it if he fancies making a nest in an old willow. The butterflies are also building. I had a lovely Green Veined White on Tuesday.

Fingers crossed it’ll be a good Easter weekend for all the sites and hopefully everybody can get out and enjoy nature. Unfortunately there is a lot of antisocial behaviour going on at the moment. Some of our northern reserves have been hit really badly by arson. We’ve suffered down south but, thankfully, not quite as dramatically. Poaching, BBQ’s in areas where birds are nesting, people walking through the middle of the marsh and kids throwing rocks at birds are just a few things that will be taking their toll on our breeding birds. I am very sure that those of you who read this blog regularly are people who conscientiously enjoy nature but please feel free to report incidents to us as the more of the picture that we can build, the better we can deal with it.

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Sightings for week ending 09/04/2017`

What a glorious week it’s been! Well, apart from Monday which was highly dependant on where you were. I left the Botley offices in the morning in sunshine and tshirt weather and by the time I was at Farlington I was wrapped up against the mist and chill air.

A lot is starting to move now but the migrants are still holding back. The most significant influx has been the Sedge and Reed Warblers in the reed bed at Farlington. There is a good number chattering away and the Bearded Tits have been very active up the building end. There is a Cettis in the bush by the feeder which makes itself known occasionally.

I’m quite excited as there is a pair of Avocets hanging around. It has been a very good winter for Avocet on the reserve and to have a pair nest would be the cherry on the cake but its early days and they may just be hanging around until they feel strong enough to move to their breeding grounds. Fingers crossed.

There are around 80 Black-Tailed Godwits in glorious chestnut attire on the lake, well worth a look at in their breeding plumage. There is also a Marsh Harrier, two Short Eared Owls and the usual Widgeon,Teal, Shelduck, Redshank, Lapwing, Skylark, Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipits and Stonechats. There has been reports of an Osprey in the Isle of Wight today so that may head over soon.

Emma did a transect at Hookheath yeaterday and had a very good start. Green Veined White, Orange Tips,Speckled Wood, Peacocks, Brimstones and Commas are all on the wing as well as some Blues. The same at Swanwick.

All set to be a lovely weekend so worth a wander around the sea wall at Farlington I’d say.