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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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

Saturday Notes

Saturday was waterbird count day, but before we started the cattle, newly turned out on the Hookheath Meadows reserve needed checking. It has been difficult to get animals to grazed this small site, not just because there is not much grazing but also because of the new TB testing requirements, which add to costs every time animals are moved between sites. The cattle we have are British Whites an old breed and one that should be quite happy eating the rougher vegetation of the reserve.

British White cow at Hookheath

British White cow at Hookheath

After a quick look into Southmoor where we also have cattle, it was onto Farlington to d o the bird count. At high tide the waders roosting on the Lake were: black-tailed godwit 378, bar-tailed godwit 9, grey plover 280, lapwing 47, knot 20, golden plover 1, dunlin 263, curlew sandpiper 11, ringed plover 3, redshank 640, spotted redshank 2, greenshank 20, oystercatcher 1, snipe 67. Something like 1700 waders and this month the 700 or so oystercatcher that often come in on the higher tides.

Out in the Harbour we saw the first 14 brent geese of the autumn,  and a large flock of wigeon, which after much counting and recounting as they were flushed by a passing boat totalled 472. The brent arrive towards the end of the third week of September without fail regardless of the weather. The first group is typically only around twenty or so, rising to a  hundred or two within a few days. Other birds included 9 or perhaps 18 pintail, 27 little egret and 826 curlew.

Aside from the waterbirds we saw a couple of whinchat, a wheatear and a marsh harrier.

Wasps, Mullet Hawks and Ducks

I had a very varied day today, I started in the office with a few calls and emails, then off to Swanwick to see how the Access to Nature youth volunteers were getting on and check the cattle. Then it was off to Radio Solent to do an interview about wasps, the usual “Why are there so many just now?” and “What use are they anyway?” kind of thing. In case you are wondering it is the good weather and they are really useful for making more wasps.

Then it was off to Farlington to see more cattle and have another go at sorting out problems with the cattle trough in North Marsh. I fixed it the other day and although it now works the water pressure was low, today I found the trough in the Aerial Field had been vandalised, after I fixed this the pressure seemed to be better, so hopefully things will be okay now.

I had a meeting to end the day In Havant, but as it did not start until 6:30 I had just time to make a quick circuit of the Marsh. On the way I saw at least 17 whinchat, 3 wheatear, and out in the Harbour 2 osprey, with reports of a third. There were also reports of a wryneck, but they were so vague as to location that it was not possible to go and look for it in any meaningful way and time did not allow a more general search. The Lake roost is getting smaller as the tides move onto neaps, but there were still a good few birds. The picture includes the following species: black-tailed godwit, redshank, dunlin, teal, wigeon. pintail, mallard and shoveler at least.

wader roost on the Lake

wader roost on the Lake

It seems that there has been a further arrival of wildfowl as there were 37 wigeon today and the 4 pintail were also new.

In case you are wondering “Mullet Hawk” is an old name for Osprey and reflects their preferred prey along the south coast, in fact one of the birds I saw was eating a mullet in one of the trees on North Binness.