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 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.

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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

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.

 

A Beardy Good Day

Well its been yet another busy weekend. Yesterday the Trust had a presence at the well attended Hampshire Ornithological Society’s Open Day. Not only was it a great chance to engage with like minded people but they also put on a good selection of talks – a busy but most enjoyable and educational day.

Today started bright and early as we were taking advantage of a good weather window to do some bird ringing in the reedbed at Farlington. Arriving just before sunrise, we got up several nets in the redbed in front of the hut. We didn’t have to wait long before the first birds came in; A pair of stunning Bearded tit, then a few more. By the end of the session we had caught and ringed 13 Beardies along with a male Reed bunting, a Meadow Pipit, a Blue tit and perhaps most surprising of all a Willow warbler. This was an obvious new arrival to the country with a thick matt of pollen above its upper mandible. This will have come from feeding from pollen rich flowers found on the continent. A top bird and the first for the year on the Marsh.

Male Bearded tit

Male Bearded tit

Look at that moustache !

Look at that moustache !

Comparative close up on the female

Comparative close up on the female

Meadow pipit

Meadow pipit

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

Pollen soaked Warbler 'nose'

Pollen soaked Warbler

Another male Beardie

Another male Beardie

The first’s didn’t stop there during the ringing session I saw my first Wheatear of the year out on the marsh (although they have been spotted on the reserve for over a week now.) We also a saw female/immature Marsh harrier, 3 Sand martins and a Short-eared owl, which was over in the hayfield.

We rounded up the session by mid morning but it was too nice to head home so I stuck around and went for a walk around the reserve to see what other migrants had touched down that morning. First interesting observation was the Brent goose splinter group were still present on the main marsh, but there were only 63 of them today. Then we found two groups of Wheatear when looking out onto the marsh from the blockhouse. There were two lots of 3 containing equal numbers of males and females, and then we later saw another female at the back of the reedbed, totalling 7! Moments later we got a glimpse of a Swallow dashing northwards.

Chiffchaff singing in the bushes

Chiffchaff singing in the bushes

Three Chiffchaff were noted; at the point, in the bushes and behind the building. When getting back to the hut in time for a late lunch there was a familiar sound in the distant; a singing Sedge warbler. Unfortunately it didn’t show itself  but with such a distinctive call i guess it didn’t need to.

It was a distant bird so you might need to turn your volume up to hear it….

Katie’s Legacy

In between doing this and that today I managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Farlington. From my first steps onto the sea wall it was clear I had somewhat overlooked the effect of the weekend storms on the reserve (probably as I was looking for dangerous trees and the like) but there was clear signs we had a serious overtopping event during ‘Storm Katie’. There is seaweed all over the place, flattened grass where water had clearly flowed and lots of moved gravel that was once on top of the seawall, now unfortunately off the wall and in places in the ditch. Luckily it doesn’t look like there is too much serious damage – just three boats we have now ‘acquired’ around the sea wall.

Washed up boat (Part 1)

Washed up boat (Part 1)

Washed up boats (part 2)

Washed up boats (part 2)

I think that the sea had overtopped in most places around the marsh, even around the eastern side – which is quite something! All water bodies on the marsh are looking incredibly full (most likely with sea water) and there is even a clear strand line on South Marsh, showing how high the water must have got.

Strand line on main marsh & Sea weed on the fence lines

Strand line on main marsh & Sea weed on the fence lines

I feel I must make an edit to my last post and retract my statement that all the Brent geese have left. On the Deeps there were 86 still feeding up but they were very flighty so I guess its only a matter of time till they join their buddies and leave for Northern climes too. Other sightings of note were a Female/Juv type Marsh harrier hunting the reedbed and the scrape, three Harbour seals hauled out on the low tide mud, 9 Mediterranean gulls  on the Stream and I heard two Chiffchaff (one around the Point and the other around the Bushes).

Marsh harrier

Marsh harrier

Med Gull in flight

Med Gull in flight

Two Med gulls amongst Blackheads and a herring gull.

Two Med gulls amongst Blackheads and a herring gull.

As far as Im aware, from the people I spoke to, there were no sightings of any migrant action today – Alas my first Wheatear sighting had to wait for another day….

First few days of a new year

Well the South East team have only been back for a couple of days after the Christmas break but we’re right back into the swing of things.

Swanwick Fire

Burning lop & top (branches that cannot be used for firewood)

On Monday we were at Swanwick lakes continuing with our tree thinning in North East meadow with the Beechcroft team. After a good couple of months on this project, this area is looking really good now and much more like a meadow than a woodland – it will look great come springtime!

Sky full of heavy showers

Sky full of heavy showers

Yesterday we were trying to dodge heavy showers at Farlington with the volunteer team doing a good site audit with some litter picking on the side. Walking around the sea wall was a tad exposed when the rain clouds descended, but it was a great vantage point to look into the marsh to check on everything and we could also see what birds were about too. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Spoonbill (last reported on 4th Jan) or unsurprisingly the Bewick’s swans (reported on 28th Dec), but there were at least 30 Pintail hunkered down on the southern shores of the lake. I must confess I didn’t hang around to count the females which were in amongst the Wigeon as the howling wind was causing my binoculars to shake around and the rain soaking my trousers put me off standing around too long at the view point. At lunch we had great views of the male Marsh harrier which looked like the same well marked individual I had seen at the start of December.

Fortunately Farlington didn’t suffer any winter storms like last Christmas, but still, overtopping is proving a problem to the seawall. The picture below shows the damage that small overtopping occurrences can do and unfortunately will continue to do so as long as sea levels continue to rise.

Seawall Erosion

Seawall Erosion

I hope you managed to get out over the Christmas & New Year period. Charlie a Farlington visitor, took these great photos on a walk around on Christmas day. Please keep the photos coming if you see anything you would like to share.

Widgeon & Mallard -  ©Charlie Annalls

Wigeon & Mallard – ©Charlie Annalls

Stonechat - ©Charlie Annalls

Stonechat – ©Charlie Annalls

Cheeky Fox - ©Charlie Annalls

Cheeky Fox – ©Charlie Annalls

If you enjoy taking pictures why not enter the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust photography competition? All the details can be found at – http://www.hiwwt.org.uk/photocomp. Good luck!