Saturday, 14 January 2023

Farlington Marsh and a "Special"

Sabine's Gull Larus sabini

 Friday 13 January

The weather forecast has been suggesting that this will be the best day of the week and even free of rain for at least the morning.  Not surprising, therefore, that I was up and away at at Farlington Marshes by 9.15 in ,basically, clear blue skies and a low, bright sun.  However, notwithstanding the gale force winds of previous day were still present so reducing the outside temperature to about 3C.  Time for many layers including beanie hat, gloves and wellies given the state of the ground following all the previous rain.

Taking the path towards the mudflats of Langstone Harbour with the tide only just turning to refill the area, I had a handful of both Teal and Mallard on the small side pools.  Then, once on the sea wall looking west immediately the first of hundreds of Brent Geese along with very many Black-headed Gulls.  Closer observation picked out a few relatively close Curlew and away to my right, almost up against the car park wall, both Oystercatcher and Redshank.  At the water's edge no less then thirty Avocet along with a Little Egret.  About to take my leave and move on and the first Carrion Crow put in an appearance.  By this time I had also met up with a fellow birder from Sandringham who had arrived for the morning hoping to find both  the wintering Greater White-fronted Geese and another reported "special."  From then on great company as Carl and I traded our various sightings.

Moving on down towards the viewing area it soon became very obvious that the number of Brent Geese had certainly increased many fold since my last visit.  On the grass behind the seawall a flock of about fifty Brent Geese included around a score of "Black Brants", a distinctive sub-species.  On the sea side of the wall more Teal and then Wigeon along with a small number of Gadwall and even  couple of Pintails. Also in this area one of only two Mute Swans seen all morning plus a handful of Shelduck.

Brent Geese Branta benicla

Walking into both the low sun and the strong wind was not the best of activities but once round the corner to our left and the both behind us a better chance to scope the meadows. As previously stated, hundreds of Brent Geese but not so many Canada Geese.  Therefore, taking the opportunity to take the footpath across the flooded meadow rather than complete the perimeter walk, I was eventually onto the eastern side of the reserve but not before noticing the Meadow Pipit that flew across the path in front of me.

Time to check out this far beach where I found a good number of Dunlin along with more Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatchers plus a single Grey Plover.  The pools on the landside held mainly Brent Geese but also a good number of Lapwing plus Shelduck, Mallard, Pintail and Redshank. On the shingle beach a single Goldfinch was resting and/or feeding.  As we looked across the meadow a Kingfisher dashed down the ditch below us.

Next stop was at the last bend before leaving these pools near the information board.  From here we had a great view over the meadows and, at last, got a clearer view of the Canada Geese.  Surprisingly, not so many and "bunched" in smaller flocks.  Time spent trying to locate the wintering family of two adults and three juvenile Greater White-fronted Geese. Apart from more Lapwings and a distant Heron it was Carl who succeeded in located the geese at a great distance and relatively close, as might be expected, to a small flock of Canada Geese.

Next on down to the closed Visitors Centre stopping half-way to check out the Greenshank that was feeding on a distant pool on the flooded meadow almost under the motorway hedge.  As a flock of fifty Starlings was flying away carl spotted the pair of Skylarks near he small flock of Brent Geese and, with patience, I, too, managed to locate the pair as they moved away just above the geese. Once at the VC, we were able to check the lake where we found a quartet of Coot plus more Lapwing, Teal, Gadwall and Mallard.  A Little Grebe was fishing at the far side and a second Little Egret flew over.

Rather than take the main track straight back to our cars we turned left through the small gate to walk along the riverside back to the western seawall noting the many Brent and Canada Geese along with more ducks already seen and a number of gulls.  Mainly Herring but also a handful of Black-headed and at least one Common Gull.  Looking over the reeds on the far side of the river we observed a female Marsh Harrier; my first raptor of the day but Carl had already seen both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel when he first arrived on site.  Finally, a stop to check the original small flock of Brent Geese so that we could identify the small number of sub-species Black Brants that were feeding with them.

Brent Geese Branta benicla

Once back at our respective cars we were able to meet both newly-arriving birders and compare with comments already received from passing birders who had started their day at nearby Southmoor Nature Reserve, less than three kilometres east along the shore before reaching Langstone, finding the "special" bird that had put in an appearance for the past few days.  Suitably changed we both then made our way towards Havant and Southmoor Lane which led down to a car park on the shore.  Then about 200 metres east we came across the few remaining birders, amongst very many others, who had arrived to observe the resting Sabine's Gull on a small island in the the basin between sea and southern edge of the reserve.  What a privilege. 

Sabine's Gull Larus sabini

Making our way back we stopped a couple of times to watch a trio of Water Pipits along with a female Stonechat and on the shore more Herring and Black-headed Gulls along with a smaller number of Brent Geese, OystercatchersRedshanks and Turnstones.  A few Carrion Crows were exploring the area and back at the car I finished the morning by adding both Woodpigeon and Magpie.

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta

Birds seen:

Greater White-fronted Goose, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard,  Shoveler, Teal, Pintail, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Coot, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Avocet, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Sabine's Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Kingfisher, Sky Lark,  Meadow Pipit, Water Pipit, Stonechat, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Goldfinch.

Female Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

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