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!

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Sightings for week ending 05/03/2017

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It’s been a mixed week weather wise and I think that this will carry on into the weekend with Saturday looking good but Sunday turning grim. So if you are getting out, Saturday would be the best bet.

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I have managed to spend a lot of time down at Farlington this week which has been lovely. Thursday was a fantastic day where we worked in the reedbed and I am glad to say that we were absolutely surrounded by Bearded Tits. I waded into the reed to look for a ditch and four were sat in a tall stand. They were pinging around us all day. Unfortunately this does not help you if you wish to see them as my best views have been whilst standing deep within the reed. I have seen them regularly near the feeder by the building and I have tried to keep it stocked with grit. I have also put millet in and the Reed Buntings are often present.They have started singing as well, I had a lovely view of a pair today.

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With some reasonable spring tides the marsh has been alive with birds. Well over a thousand Brent Geese were in the deeps on Tuesday and today they moved onto the top of the north marsh. Wigeon, Lapwing, Teal, Shelduck and Pintail are still in high numbers and today there were a good number of Grey Plover and Dunlin on the deeps.

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I sat at the lake after checking the sluice today and I was graced with a fly past from the Short Eared Owl and then the Peregrine put everything up. Later in the afternoon a Barn Owl floated up and down the eastern sea wall before heading into the bushes. This combined with a Buzzard and a feeding Kestrel made for a good day for predatory birds.

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There was a Kingfisher reported by the deeps today and I saw one at Southmoor this morning, hovering above the inter-tidal area.

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All in all there are still plenty of waders and wildfowl in Farlington but they’ll soon be going so it’s worth getting down for a last look.

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.

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Marsh Harrier

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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.

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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.

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Greenshank

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Marsh Harrier

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

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A beautiful pair of Bullfinches – Gwyneth Mitchell

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A handsome Marsh Tit – Gwyneth Mitchell

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.

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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/)

Unwinding with a Flapjack

Yesterday evening saw our third annual summer volunteer BBQ celebration held in the beautiful surroundings of Swanwick Lakes. It was well attended by 34 volunteers coming from a mix of five different volunteer groups we have in our region of South East Hampshire. Across these three teams we have a variety of volunteer roles; Education, conservation and cattle lookers. Without these people the Trust could simply not function with the same output. The evening was a chance to say thanks for their committed hard work but also to have a social and share stories. Many tasty foods were enjoyed including lamb from our very own St. Catherines hill nature reserve and enough cake to keep hungry volunteers going for a few months.

BBQ in full swing

BBQ getting into full swing

The people that make it all happen

The people that make it all happen

Today at Farlington was far less hospitable through the heavy rain showers and thunder and lightning. However the hardy Thursday Beechcroft team, revved up from the previous evenings lamb baps and flapjack pieces were ready to do battle with more Thistles on the main marsh – not even the weather could put them off! We made some great progress and between the rain, thunder and thistles we managed to see some good birds. Steve managed to find an Osprey in the harbour, a way off in the drizzly murk. It was sat on a low post on one of the small islands to the south of North Binness, spotted looking out east from the eastern seawall. 2 Juv Little Ringed Plover were on the stream, 3 Wheatear in south marsh, a Whinchat on the fenceline to the south of the lake and several stunning Grey plover and Dunlin in summer plumage were roosting on the lake. Not bad for a grey rainy day!

Stormy Farlington

Stormy Farlington

Going Bats

I was too late back to make a post last night so I will cover a couple of days in one. I had to go down to Farlington on Monday for a variety of reasons, one of which was to check on the cattle. It was very hot indeed and cattle don’t much like hot weather, which did mean that I at least knew where to find the Main Marsh herd, beside or in, the Deeps. Some of you may have been asking yourselves if the raft we built for little terns in the spring has received any interest, the answer was no, until today and then the only interest was from the cattle!

cattle at the Deeps

cattle at the Deeps

On the way around I was looking at the plants growing out of the seawall, there are quite a good range of species, a mix of shingle beach, saltmarsh and rocky shore plants, sadly they are likely to be removed as their roots damage the points in the concrete wall. One of the commoner plants on the western side is rock samphire.

rock samphire on the seawall at Farlington Marshes

rock samphire on the seawall at Farlington Marshes

In the evening I was out at Swanwick Lakes doing some bat survey, I was actually just acting as scribe, as my bat identification skills are a little sketchy. I arrived a bit early and went looking for insects, there were still lots of dragon and damselflies out and about including this black-tailed skimmer.

black-tailed skimmer

black-tailed skimmer

As the sun was sinking I went to the top of New Hill to see if the warm evening had anything to offer. Scanning the tops of the oak trees I could see lots of purple hairstreak, I have noticed before that on warm evenings they are very active around the crowns of the trees, I suspect they will fly after dark as well as I have caught them a few times in the moth trap.

low sunlight on the trees

low sunlight on the trees

I also found a few other insects, including an adult fleabane tortoise beetle, the strange-looking larvae of which I posted a picture of a while back.

fleabane tortoise beetle

fleabane tortoise beetle

We started our bat survey at about nine twenty and very quickly had a noctule fly over, this was only just after we had seen our last emperor dragonfly of the day. We also recorded soprano and common pipistrelle, and probable Daubenton’s bats, other species may follow when the recordings have been looked at closely.

Today we were working at Farlington Marshes, it was not so hot but very humid, the main task was to cut back an area on the south side of the Lake to provide roosting areas for waders. This was first done some fifteen years ago and has proved very good for  a number of species, especially when the lake level is higher on neap tides.

The Lake with the south shore cut back for roosting waders

The Lake with the south shore cut back for roosting waders

Although our work did cause the wader roost do move to the Stream today, they should be back tomorrow. The roost is growing quite quickly now with good numbers of redshank and black-tailed godwit, today there were also 4 knot, a common sandpiper or possibly two and a small flock of dunlin.

 

Of Emperors and Admirals

I was in the office for a good part of the day today, not generally my favourite place to be on a sunny day, but at least today it was cooler inside. However I had to go out first thing to deal with a snapped branch at Swanwick and meet up with Emma and the volunteers. Although it was rather hot for working it was brilliant for butterflies as it has been for the last few days. As though to confirm this Emma reported seeing a male purple emperor by Centre Lake at Swanwick on Saturday, a species I have not seen for many years.

I did get out in the afternoon and on my way over to check the cattle at Farlington I stopped off at Hookheath Meadows, which were alive with butterflies, including several white admiral and silver-washed fritillary, both looking immaculate having just emerged. The heat meant that they were all very active and evaded all attempts at getting pictures.

On to Farlington and the hunt for the cattle, I know it does not sound too much of a task to count cattle in a field, but it can be surprisingly difficult. They crowd together so it is hard to work out where one starts and another ends and they sit down on undulating ground in long grass adding to the problems and that is just in open fields, add in bushes and it gets almost impossible at times. Anyway I managed to find most of them with the aid of a telescope!

In the process I had to go onto the seawall at the viewpoint so I also counted the waders on the Lake at high tide these included 3 dunlin in fine summer plumage, 263 redshank, 249 oystercatcher and 80 black-tailed godwit, including many in fine red summer plumage, just back from Iceland.