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.

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Families in the Field

Two days in one, although most fo the sightings refer to yesterday as I was only on site briefly today.

I started out at Southmoor on Thursday, where the path in from Southmoor Lane needed a cut back, this hedge was planted about seven years ago and has grown pretty well, although it now needs thinning and laying if it is to continue as a useful hedge rather than becoming a line of leggy trees. The downside of this job is that the path is used by lots of dog owners as a dog toilet, making progress along it a smell and generally unpleasant experience. I did see my first pheasant of the year though so. The field to the south of the path is a former playing field that had reverted to long, rank grass where we have introduced grazing in an attempt to improve it for wildlife. I was delighted to see a group of 10 brent geese grazing, one of our target species for the site and my first sighting on the field.

brent on Southmoor

brent on Southmoor

The group consisted of three pairs, two with two juveniles each. There are very few families with  juveniles this winter, but those there are tend to feed on grass more often than those without and often away from the groups with no young to avoid competition. A quick look around the neighbouring Budd’s Farm pools and nearby shore added tufted duck, pochard and greenshank to my yearlist. The pools attract a good few duck and, in the past had small roosts of waders at high tide, although the banks seem to have grown up somewhat, I would be useful to get them cut again if possible.

I then headed to Farlington for some lunch and heard reports of the red-breasted goose on North Marsh, although I could not see it from the Building. I did hear a few bearded tits and singing Cetti’s warbler though. I also finally saw some ringed plover near the entrance to the reserve by the Eastern Road roundabout.

I then went to Hook Heath to see what had been the effect the very high floods there before Christmas. The answer was not a lot, although the flattened vegetation bore witness to the very high level of the water and the rapid flow rate. There were several more car parts along the river along with sundry other debris, all of which will need clearing. Overall the reserve was quiet, although I did add nuthatch, marsh tit and raven to my yearlist.

Today I was briefly at Farlington Marshes and saw the red-breasted goose, distantly with brent geese at the Willow Pool, right at the southern end of the reserve. I also experienced a close fly by from a fine adult male peregrine, it then landed out on the field near the Scrape, another first for the year, taking me to 96 species so far, perhaps I will top 100 this weekend.

Old Friends and New Failures

I arrived to find the barriers still up at the western entrance, not a good sign as there were to have all gone by Friday. I went down to the building in better weather than I had been expecting and the day improved as I saw a very fine adult male marsh harrier hunting over the reedbed. I knew it was to be a big spring tide today so I headed off the see what was on the marsh and to see how many of the harbour birds were pushed off the islands as the tide rose. There were good numbers of brent geese grazing the fields, I know they are common here but I still enjoy watching them.

grazing brent

grazing brent

I found a number of colour-ringed birds including several old friends that were ringed at Farlington ten or more years ago and have been returning each winter ever since. One such is 6X, surely a candidate for sponsorship by someone? More correctly it is R6GX, that is red 6, green X a unique combination that identifies this individual.

6X brent

6X brent

6X was paired but had no offspring, not too surprising as there ar every few young birds this year. I then spotted R2GX a female goose and it did have a juvenile with it.

R2GX brent with juv

R2GX brent with juv

At the Point the rising tide had pushed the waders close in against the wall giving good views and I grabbed a quick shot of these dunlin.

dunlin

dunlin

I also heard and then saw a whimbrel as it was pushed off the mudflat and flew off to Bakers island to roost. Whimbrel almost all winter in Africa, so this one is well north fo the usual winter range, although there are usually one or two in Hampshire each winter.

Arriving at the repaired seawall section it was disappointing to see that a good bit of the back slope repair has already washed away, given the nature of the material and the near certainty of the sea spilling over during the winter this was not a surprise, but given the great deal of upheaval we have had to endure over recent weeks for it to be failing so soon is a real blow.

new seawall eroded

new seawall eroded

The tide was well up by the time I got to the Lake, where high levels meant there were no many birds, but looking into the Harbour a flock of at least 30 avocet were in a tight group swimming out the tide.

avocets swimming

avocets swimming

I went back to the Building for some early lunch and then off again as the tide reached its maximum, as I thought the islands were almost completely submerged.

high tide over North Binness

high tide over North Binness

Lots of the birds from the Harbour had come onto the Marsh and along with them a very big female peregrine, here keeping potential snacks in view.

peregrine and lapwings

peregrine and lapwings

At the Deeps there was a modest wader roost, but some of the birds were on an island close to the seawall allowing particularly good views. In this shot there are grey plover, knot, dunlin and turnstone.

wader roost

Heading back north I spotted the red-breasted goose in the brent flock, I had briefly seen it earlier from the Building way off on the Main Marsh, it certainly stands amongst the rather dull coloured brents.

red-breasted goose with brent

red-breasted goose with brent

A Mouldy Old Day and a Visiting Flame

I was not able to blog for the latter part of last week as I  was doing a first aid course, which did not provide much to blog about.

I was at Farlington and Southmoor on Saturday, the day was quiet for migrants and there are still a good few winter birds to arrive. The Bushes held a few more blackcaps than last week as well as a few chiffchaff. Near the Building several bearded tit were calling and showing well at the top of the reeds, sometimes very close to the path, as  ever I completely failed to get a picture. I went round the reserve to check on the cattle and in the Point Field found the ringers, they had also not found many migrants but had caught a couple of meadow pipits.

meadow pipit in the hand

As  was in the field a short-eared owl flew overhead being chased by a carrion crow, a got a truly terrible picture of it!

short-eared owl (honest)

From the Point I could see a large number of wigeon and a fair few dark-bellied brent geese feeding on the mud, I had intended to try to get a count of them but a good few took flight so I gave up. I did spot a number of sea slaters under some debris though, these are very large woodlice that live right on the tide line, the one in the picture was not actually very large, but still bigger than any other British woodlouse.

sea slater

I did see a few birds from on my way around, a merlin was hunting the fields and a very pale adult peregrine was out on the Harbour islands. At the Lake there was another group of bearded tits and on a few occasions small groups of lesser redpoll flew over heading east. Returning to the Building I came across several curious patches in the grass.

Looking closely I decided they were patches of a slime mould, weird life forms that are not animal, plant or fungus.

slime mould in close up

The rest of the day was unremarkable, I managed to check all the cattle and persuade one that had escaped to return to the field. North of the A27 there were still a few dragonflies flying and even a couple of butterflies.

Although it is not wildlife from any of the reserves I am also going to include one item from my garden seen on Sunday, it is another rare immigrant moth like the Clifden nonpareil of  a few days ago, this time a flame brocade, also my second ever of this species.

flame brocade

I will end with a warning about likely closures to the seawall footpath starting next week. The Environment Agency are doing works to repair the landward side of the wall to the south of the Lake and say they will need to close the path to carry out the work. It is still not entirely clear exactly how much effect this will have although clearl;y there are going to be restrictions on access for sometime. There should be signage provided on site if you visit and when I have the precise details I will post them.