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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.241

Published on: 5 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 5 Oct, 2021

By Malcolm Fincham

High pressure continued into the second half of September bringing dry, settled, and even a few sunny spells of weather.

Farlington Marshes.

Overdue for me, was a few trips to Farlington Marshes, near Portsmouth.

Waders on main lagoon. Seen there were common redshanks and black-tailed godwits.

Waders had already begun to return from their breeding grounds in the Arctic Tundra. Although many were too distant to photograph as they probed the mudflats, on the low tide in Langstone Harbour. Some, nevertheless, could be viewed on the main lagoon.

Curlew, probing for food.

And a curlew near to the seawall was kind enough to pose for a picture.

Teal in flight.

A few wintering ducks had already made their return. These include UK’s smallest duck, the teal.

Previously take photo of a pair of pintail ducks at Farlington.

A few pintail ducks had also returned.

Drake shoveler.

And shovellers were also present.

Grey plover at Farlington.

Still in summer plumage a few grey plovers could be observed, still looking rather dapper with their black bellies.

Lapwings at Farlington.

Green plovers, more commonly known as lapwings seemed easily agitated, occasionally flying up in a flock as if a predator was about.

Greenshank at Farlington.

A few greenshanks could also be observed.

Little grebe on the main lagoon at Farlington.

While a resident little grebe could be viewed fishing just below the viewpoint.

Bearded tits (reedlings) at Farlington Marshes.

A few locally breeding tits bearded could be viewed briefly in the reed beds.

Kestrel at Farlington.

And a kestrel flew low across the reed beds allowing the opportunity of an in-flight photo-shot.

The accumulation of wildfowl on display was like a magnet to a passing peregrine falcon. Like meat on tenterhooks in a butcher’s shop to such a predator. In North America they are known as the ‘duck hawk’ for good reason.

Peregrine with prey at Farlington Marshes.

It appeared that the lapwings had pre-empted a visit and to see one flying overhead was of no surprise to me. Having examined the photo I took, however, on this occasion it already had a wood pigeon in its talons.

Seals in Langstone Harbour.

Taking the circular walk around the reserve along the seawall while looking out across the mudflats, a small group of seals could be viewed.

White stork high over Farlington Marshes.

Circling a while high overhead briefly was a single white stork.

A group had been reported having been seen in a number of locations along the south coast in recent days past. This one had been seen roosting on a nearby radio mast earlier that day. Most likely they were all on migration from the Knepp Reserve Project in West Sussex. This one perhaps a bit lost?

Osprey in a dead tree on North Binnes Island, at Farlington.

Scanning out from the eastern wall through the heat haze and forming in the direction of the dead trees on North Binnes island, the distinctive silhouette of an osprey could be viewed sat up on one of the branches.

Osprey at Farlington.

Occasionally it could be seen circling the island.

Cattle egret.

Looking inland across the marshes I was able to pick out two cattle egrets among the grazing cattle.

Little egret at Farlington Marshes.

Further to view were a “congregation” of little egrets of at least a score!

Great white egret at Farlington Marshes.

Completing the trio, a great white egret landed briefly in an area known locally as “The Deeps” along the eastern wall.

Previously taken picture of a wheatear.

Also observed in the field were several wheatears, instantly recognised by their white bottoms.

Starlings at Farlington Marshes.

The hedgerows had been complemented by brambles, now bearing fruit. Attracting starlings to flock in for a feast.

Goldfinches feeding on thistles.

While a ‘charm’ of goldfinches fed on thistle seeds.

Wood mouse eating blackberries at Farlington.

To my surprise, while watching some movement in a nearby bush, a little head popped out from within the foliage. It was a wood mouse. Unperturbed by my presence, it sat by a cluster of blackberries and began to feast.

Film of the wood mouse eating blackberries at Farlington Marshes, uploaded to YouTube.

Yellow wagtail at Farlington.

By the time I had walked the path in the direction of the information hut, the cattle had moved closer to view. Although the cattle egrets had flown, I was able to get some close views of at least eight yellow wagtails feeding on the flies about the cattle’s legs.

Merlin in flight at Farlington.

At the information hut a merlin was mimicking the traits of a hobby, hawking dragonfly over the reed beds behind the hut.

Merlin at Farlington.

For a while it perched up, giving good though distant views in the dead branches of a tree behind the reed beds.

Common buzzard at Farlington Marshes.

“Wrapping up” my birds of prey sightings for the day was a common buzzard circling overhead.

Avocets at Farlington.

Looking across toward the stream, a few avocets could be seen feeding with the godwits.

Kingfisher at Farlington Marshes.

A flash of blue also put me onto a kingfisher as it flew up the stream, perching on a fence post just long enough to get a photo of it.

Just a few days after my visit on September 19 the first of the brent geese were reported to have arrived in Langstone Harbour to winter there. A count of 52, with a good few thousand more soon to follow.

A previous photo of Brent geese at Farlington.

Brent geese are the most northerly breeding geese in the world. Breeding in the boggy shallow pools of Arctic tundra of Siberia. They usually leave their breeding grounds in mid-September, with most arriving from their 2,500 mile journey mid to late October. Recent reports of winter closing in early seems to have prompted some to leave now.

By September 27 the weather had taken a turn. Atlantic westerlies had broken through, bringing with it showers and longer spells of rain on a strong cool breeze. Although still reasonably warm when the sun did shine, there was a definite autumnal feel in the air.

Ivy bee on ivy blossom.

While the sun shone ivy bees could be seen among the variety of insects that could be observed feeding on the ivy flowers now coming into bloom.

Red admiral.

Red admiral butterflies, attracted by the ivy blossom, were also out in good number.

The ivy bee was first recorded in the UK in 2001, and has now been found in much of Southern England. As suggested by its common name, ivy is the main plant used by this bee for pollen. It is seen when ivy is in flower, from early September to early November.

Ivy bees digging their nest holes in the sandy soil.

Ivy bees nest in loose, light or sandy soil on southern-facing banks and cliffs with ivy nearby for foraging. They are solitary bees, but when conditions are suitable, there may be thousands of nests in the same area.

Mute swan family on Britten’s Pond.

The family of mute swans on Britten’s Pond, off Salt Box Road, could often be seen, as if on parade, as they circled the pond.

Cygnets developing the white plumage of an adult swan.

The ever-growing cygnets notably developing their adults white plumage.

Greylag geese at Britten’s Pond.

Three greylag geese could be regularly seen there.

Grey heron on Britten’s Pond.

While a single grey heron seemed to have made the place his own.

Grey wagtail at Britten’s Pond.

A pair of grey wagtails could be heard and seen as they flitted back and forth from bank to bank in undulating flight over the water, occasionally giving close-up views.

Swallow hawking insects over Britten’s Pond.

While a handful of swallows would stop off most evenings as they headed south, with at least six counted on the last day of the month feeding on insects over Britten’s Pond.

Meadow pipit.

My visits to Whitmoor Common saw that meadow pipits had grown in number, counting more than 20 on several occasions. Often they could be seen perched up on the overhead wires. Mostly gathering during the last hour of light.

Linnets on Whitmoor Common.

Linnets would often join alongside them.

Mistle thrushes on Whitmoor Common.

On one occasion three mistle thrush perched up on one of the utility poles that transect the wires across the centre of the heathland.

Chiffchaff, Whitmoor Common.

Also adding a chiffchaff to my day’s list of photos.

Kestrel, Whitmoor Common.

The resident kestrel continued to take up its what seems to be its favoured perch on a small pine tree on a quiet and boggy area in the centre of the common.

Stonechat, on Whitmoor Common.

Families of stonechats could be seen varying in their plumage, depending on age and sex.

Dartford warbler, Whitmoor Common.

While Dartford warblers continued to flourish.

Jay, Whitmoor Common.

Jays could be seen flying to and fro over the open landscape, struggling to find a supply of acorns.

Acorns seem to be in short supply in southern regions of the UK. A low yield, compared to last year.

Oak galls.

Knopper galls made by the gall wasp, have deformed many of the ones available.

There are more than 30 different species of gall wasp that lay their eggs on oak trees, and each species produces a different type of gall – essentially a protective casing that shelters the wasp larvae as they feed and grow inside.

The wrinkly mutant acorns are known as Andricus quercuscalicis, which looks like a tiny black fly just a few millimetres long.

Click here for more details.

Female bullfinch in a rowan tree.

Rowan berries were in good supply, however on this occasion finding a female bullfinch feeding.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

Looking though my recent photos in preparation, I realised how obsessive I had become in my attempts to getting photos of the kingfisher I have regularly seen at Britten’s Pond over the past few weeks.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

My fixation was beginning to turn into an addiction! “though not a bad one to have,” I would question.

Kingfisher, Britten’s Pond.

The challenge had been greater than it may look! Especially for me, having had to take early retirement this year due to anxiety.

Kingfisher and chiffchaff at Britten’s Pond.

It was something about their elusive nature and timidness that enticed me. And above all, their opalescence and beauty that helped to put me at one with nature.

Kingfisher at Britten’s Pond.

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