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.

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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.

In Deep, A Dialogue with a Darter

I have spent much of the last two days running around between the sites shifting materials and sorting stuff for later work. However I have had the chance to do a bit of real survey work, or at least assist a bit with some. Yesterday Ben came over to Swanwick to do another pond survey, these are aimed at establishing the health of a sample of ponds in an area in an attempt to establish the state of our ponds. It is being run in three parts of the country as “PondNet” and one of these is South Hampshire. The idea is to collect a sample in a comparable way from each site, so the method of taking the sample, the time it is collected for and the habitats that are sampled are all decided to a protocol. Mind you it still involves someone putting on some waders and getting into the pond with a net and in this case that was Ben.

Ben doing pond survey

Ben doing pond survey

I did get to help out with some of the sorting of the sample though, this is the time-consuming part, just a few minutes sampling took something like two days to sort (he was still sifting the sample this afternoon). There were loads of lesser water boatmen and hog lice and a fair few leeches, worms, and mayfly larvae. For me the highlight was finding a few water spiders.

water spider

water spider

These live in a little “diving bell” and can keep a silvery layer of air around their bodies when underwater, they are covered in very fine hairs that trap the air layer, the abdomen is especially velvety.

It was fairly warm and there were a good few dragonflies about and at lunchtime this common darter came and perched beside me, I took a number of close up pictures of it.

common darter "So what do you want to talk about?"

common darter “So what do you want to talk about?”

It also seemed like a good listener too.

common darter, in listening mode

common darter, in listening mode

And I suspect might even have dispensed good advice too.

giving sage advice

giving sage advice

Unfortunately I suspect it only knew about how to catch midges and seek out other common darter.

It was even warmer today and at Swanwick again I saw a clouded yellow on New Hill and a male broad-bodied chaser still out at the pond near the north-east entrance. Also in the North-east Meadow, we saw a young redstart, a good site record, it was just a migrant passing through but in time this area of wood pasture habitat might become suitable as a breeding site.

I was also at Farlington for a short while today and managed to get the butterfly transects done, I saw no butterflies of note but was pleased to see that the Old Pond still has a good colony of small red-eyed damselfly. A quick look at the wader roost on the Lake at high tide revealed no surprises, but 94 grey plover, mostly more or less in breeding plumage was a good sight.

 

A Peacock of the Third Kind

We had a meeting at the office this morning and Rob had the foresight to run the moth trap last night so we had a little wildlife to start the day. Nothing of great note but a female black arches was nice to see. Males make up the majority of the moth catch for almost all species, probably because they fly about more on the hunt for females. I think every black arches I have seen has had a slightly different pattern of black on white, this female was quite sparsely, but boldly, marked.

black arches female

black arches female

As it warmed up later the white buddleia by the back wall of the office was attracting lots of butterflies including at least five small tortoiseshell.

small tortoiseshell

small tortoiseshell

There was also a comma and a few peacock. There was also a female peacock of the feathered kind calling loudly in the field just over the fence from the butterflies and we had also caught a sharp angled peacock moth in the trap earlier.

peacock

peacock

We were at Farlington later to check up on the cattle. The tide was rising and there were good numbers of waders on the Lake, including a good few magnificent grey plover on full breeding plumage, surely one of the smartest of all birds. There had also been a very obvious arrival of black-tailed godwit since yesterday and they included the first juvenile birds of the autumn. Otherwise the only obvious migrant was a single wheatear near the Willow Pool.

A day of paperwork to come tomorrow so I don’t suppose I will have much to post about, but you never know.

A Little Salt Goes a Long Way

We were at Farlington with the volunteers today, tasks were to complete the cutting on the south side of the Lake, fix a section of fencing, some thistle cutting and do the butterfly transects, I am pleased to say we got it all done. Cutting the area of reeds beside the Lake extends the are suitable for roosting waders and is also very popular with wildfowl later in the autumn. Snipe love to roost in the reed stubble and the piles of cut reed are very popular with ducks.

cut area by the Lake at Farlington

cut area by the Lake at Farlington

A feature of the southern shore of the Lake is notable for the saltwater seepage which comes in from the south ditch, this results in an interesting upper saltmarsh plant community, much of which is looking very good just now. The saltwater gets concentrated by evaporation, so rather little seawater can result in a fair bit of salt in the soil over a long period. One of the most attractive plants is sea lavender, although it is not in large patches here as it can be on some saltmarshes, such as on the eastern side of Hayling Island.

sea lavender

sea lavender

It is very popular with nectaring bees and flies as is the sea aster.

sea aster

sea aster

Sea aster is the food plant of the starwort moth and I have found the larvae in large numbers in the past although I could see none today, this is one moth that is rarely seen as an adult as it does not often come to light traps. Other saltmarsh plants in this area included sea purslane, sea blight, glasswort and cord grass.

Spartina (cordgrass)

Spartina (cord grass)

We just managed to finish work before the wader roost started to build, it was pleasing to see twenty or so summer plumaged grey plover fly in, with their velvety black fronts edged with white. There were also redshank, black-tailed godwit, greenshank, dunlin , common and green sandpipers, snipe and a ringed plover.

The highlight of the butterfly transect was a clouded yellow, although overall numbers of butterflies are now well down on those of a couple of weeks ago.