A successful season



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.


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.



Sightings for week ending 12/03/2017

Its been a busy week down Farlington this week. Lots of Bearded Tits, a Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, Barn Owl, tons of Curlew, Brent Geese and Shelduck and still a Short Eared Owl or two. There was a leucistic duck by the building Tuesday which I think was a Gadwall, despite being positioned next to a Pintail.

Today was particularly gloomy but there were 500+ Dunlin feeding on the mudflats west of the marsh with a few Black Tailed Godwits and Redshank mixed in. There was also one solitary Avocet roosting on the lake. I haven’t seen any Avocet around for a little while, despite the high numbers earlier in the year.

Spring really descended on Thursday. We were working in tshirts at Swanwick Lakes, basking in the warmth on the edge of the lakes. Whilst we were sat at lunch we had a Brimstone, Peacock, Comma and a Red Admiral pass by! These are the first butterflies that I have seen this year.

I think Saturday will be the better day this weekend and so will be a good opportunity to see the last of the waders and wildfowl. The numbers have certainly dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks and it will be sensible to keep an eye out for the first of the summer migrants. Reports of Wheatears and House/Sand Martins have been arriving across the country for a week or so now!

Sightings for week ending 29/01/2017

dsc_0509Nearly the end of the month! January has flown by in a flurry of Brent geese and waders! This week has been a good one too. I have spent some time down at Farlington and you may see our hedge laying work down by the building. I’m quite pleased with it, the volunteers have done an excellent job, especially as for many of them it was their first time laying.I also remembered to take my camera out with me for once as did our student from Sparsholt (thanks Gwyneth) hence the overload of images on this post.

The star of the show, in my opinion, this week has been the Marsh Harrrier which has been cruising over the reed bed for a few days now. It is quite obliging and regularly pirouettes mid air whist quartering.  No less impressive have been the Bearded Tits which have been seen a lot up by the building and the feeder, even in the thick fog at the start of the week. I filled the feeder on Thursday so hopefully this may draw them in this weekend.


Marsh Harrier


Black Tailed Godwit and Teal – Gwyneth Mitchell

The usual high numbers of Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Avocet and Dunlin have been in the lake at high tide and Widgeon, Teal, Pintail and Lapwing have been in good numbers across the site. Three Short Eared Owls are still around, using the Point Field and the Main Marsh.

I am please to say that the Brent Goose numbers have rocketed in the last week and where we were only getting a few hundred, well over a thousand are now using the fields, especially the hay meadow. This is much more in line with what we would expect. I was surveying this morning, looking out to Farlington from Broadmarsh. Hundreds of geese were along the foreshore and between the islands and they steadily moved into the marsh at high tide.

The Robins are, to be completely honest, getting to ridiculous numbers in the bushes at the moment. Whilst cutting scrub on Thursday there must have been 20 over the four patches we were clearing. There were also a few Stonechats coming over to see what we were unearthing. One of our wardens thought that they saw a Black Redstart so worth keeping your eyes peeled, it’s a great little bird.


Stonechat inspecting our handiwork

Southmoor was also very good today. 40 Red-Breasted Merganser were off the point, mingling with Gadwall and Widgeon. There was also a Greenshank sitting on the end of the stream.




Marsh Harrier

The Swanwick feeders have been as busy as usual with Nuthatch, Bullfinches and Marsh Tit.


A beautiful pair of Bullfinches – Gwyneth Mitchell


A handsome Marsh Tit – Gwyneth Mitchell

Sighting for week ending 22/01/2017

A very chilly week! Lots of ice around and most of the stream and lake at Farlington and all the lakes at Swanwick remained frozen, especially at the latter end of the week.

Farlington was busy as usual. There was the usual Avocet, Short Eared Owls and Pintail around and the Spotted Redshank has been posing nicely by the building. Raven and Peregrine have been cruising over very frequently and I had a report of a Marsh Harrier earlier today.

I saw three Common seals off the point today, lolling around on a sand bar and somebody reported two Eider off the east side on Thursday. The bearded tits seemed to have split with some down by the sluice and the others up by the building. They seem quite active at the moment and like it by the bush next to the feeder. The lower ones often bob over the top of the reed, flitting between the reed either side of the sluice.

There seemed to be more brents today on the marsh. I estimated around 800-1000 which is higher than I’ve seen recently, which is good. The numbers of Wigeon are still high, feeding mainly around the deeps and there seems to be an awful lot of Canada Geese this year.

I checked the cows at Biddenfield today, hoping to see some flocks of finches due to the cold weather. There wasn’t much around but a Red Kite did soar over with a Buzzard close on its heels. First one I’ve seen in that area. The Ravens bomb through there regularly.


Sightings for week ending 08/01/2016


Pintail Courtesy Alan Dunk

Managed a wander around a few of the sites this week in between work parties and odd jobs. Farlington had all the usual that you would expect. Notably Pintail and Avocet are in large numbers on the lake at the moment. I got an awesome view of one of the Spotted Redshank up by the building. Unfortunately my camera was in the truck rather than around my neck, as is the way.

There are at least two Short Eared Owls still hanging around. One seems to like to roost in a gorse bush on the east side of the point field, which can be seen easily from the gate on that side.


SEO courtesy Alan Dunk

On a side note there were signs up saying ‘no entry to the point field’. We did not place these and access to the field is still open and always will be. Please stick to the footpath and be conscientious of the birds and other people.

There have been a number of Reed Buntings spotted around the reed bed. The Bearded Tits, as usual, are remaining elusive.

The usual array of woodland birds can be seen at Swanwick Lakes. Marsh Tit, Bullfinch, Coal Tit and Siskin are good ones to watch out for. On the lakes there are plently of Gadwall and a Kingfisher is around.




Lunchtime Chiff & Other Niceties (Thursday Notes)

Yesterday the Beechcroft team joined us down at Farlington and we managed to finish off the fencing near the cycletrack entrance. It took us the best part of a morning to make it look proper smart so we rewarded ourselves with a sunny lunch-break sitting outside the reserve hut with the March solar rays beating down. It was really rather pleasant and to make it even better a Chiffchaff came and joined us, bellowing out its song from a Hawthorn behind the hut. It wasn’t bothered by us at all and we managed to get great views of it.



With sandwiches consumed and a good amount of sunshine absorbed, we spent the afternoon going around the reserve ticking off a selection of odd jobs. After we had finished up and packed the tools away I stayed on and went for a walk around the seawall talking with visitors and seeing if we had any new feathered arrivals on the reserve.

I was hopeful for a Wheatear, Sandwich tern or a Sandpiper but alas my luck wasn’t in. There were plenty of other niceties though. A lone Bearded tit (what looked most probably like a female) skimmed along the reedbed pinging as it went. The usual fine selection of waterfowl (Shoveler, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal and Pintail) were still on the deeps area. Although it certainly looked like there were now fewer Wigeon on the reserve. The Brent were still present all over the reserve but in distinct tight groups, no doubt waiting for the ‘leader’ to say “right lets go!”. Lapwing are now throwing themselves around the skies busy setting up territories and showing off.

Distant Lapwing

Distant Lapwing

Looking out from the point a Seal was hauled out on the mudflats to the South. Unfortunately the Short-eared owl (last seen on the 13th) did not make an appearance in its usual area of the point field, so I carried on walking making sure I paid special attention to the Willow Pool, keeping an eye out for Wheatears. Try as I might I couldn’t make any tufts of grass on top of anthills into Wheatears so I continued on around the seawall. On the Lake was a Greenshank and a Spotted redshank with a selection of Black-tailed godwits (in the begins of their summer plumage). Also to the right in the reed stubble area were 7 Snipe. 

Black-tailed godwit showing off its part summer plumage

Black-tailed godwit showing off its part summer plumage

Greenshank & Redshank on the lake

Greenshank & Spotted redshank on the lake (blurry digiscope)

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank – Caught a slightly better image with my camera after it moved onto the stream.

Before returning to where I had begun a single Avocet was busy feeding on the stream as the gulls began to come into roost.

Taking it Weaselly

Sparsholt visit

Identifying ducks on The Deeps

Today I showed Sparsholt college around Farlington. Unlike their previous visits, today they managed to pick an absolutely stunning day to walk around the reserve, learn about nature reserve management and get to grips with bird identification. (They usually end up coming to Farlington on the most foul of days – wind howling and rain coming in horizontally).

Bearded tit in the reed bed of The Lake

Bearded tit in the reed bed of The Lake

After leaving the minibuses at the car park we headed straight for the lake. Straight away Reed bunting were calling in the lake reedbed, followed by the familiar pinging of  Bearded tit. As the weather was so still both species were busy feeding on the seed heads – first we spotted 2 Reed buntings followed by  13 Beardies.

The seawall was busy with lots of other visitors, enjoying the great conditions. Even though it was low tide there were still plenty of birds both close to the seawall in the harbour and in the reserve on the marsh. The conditions were so good infact that a Skylark gave a little sonnet from the sky and a Lapwing practiced it’s springtime display in the sunshine.


Dunlin feeding on the low tide mud.

Out on the mud looking east towards Portsmouth were 37 Avocet on the main (Broom) channel, while good collections of waders (Dunlin, Redshank, Grey plover, Ringed plover and a couple of Turnstone) were all busy probing the thick mud.

One of the 37 - Avocet

One of the 37 – Avocet

Other birds of note on our way around the reserve were; a lightly coloured Short-eared Owl sat on an anthill out near the deeps, a single Raven flying over the reserve, calling as it headed east towards Hayling Island, 19 Shoveler on the deeps and a single female Goldcrest which was busy feeding in the bramble on the eastern seawall.

In the last two weeks there have also been three sightings of weasels on the reserve. All spotters have been lucky enough to get photos so I shall end this post with one of them.

Weasel - ©Justin Kercher (https://www.facebook.com/photographyprints/)

Weasel – ©Justin Kercher (https://www.facebook.com/photographyprints/)