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Birdwatcher’s Diary No. 267

Published on: 18 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2022

By Malcolm Fincham

Out of the blue, and just before November had the opportunity to open its doors, an invite came my way for another late autumn trip to Farlington marshes.

A large flocks of wader, in flight over Langstone Harbour.

Although not a place one could describe as of outstanding beauty, the marshes more than complements itself with its wealth of waders and wildfowl at this time of year, as well as being conveniently located on the outskirts of Portsmouth just an hour’s drive down the A3 from Guildford.

Once again in the company of Bob and Dougal it was another one of those windows of opportunity as a brief spell of dry weather passed our way.

While a prolonged spell of mild weather allowed me to continue to wear a short sleeved-top and shorts in comfort, even though with the coastal breeze, my friends preferred slightly warmer outfits.

May flower (hawthorn in bloom.

As in my early October report https://guildford-dragon.com/birdwatchers-diary-no-265/ once again I found another tree with a few sprigs of spring blossom. This time it was the Mayflower of a hawthorn! “We do live in strange times?!”

With the tide still on the rise in the harbour on our arrival, various waders were still in the process of being turfed off the few remaining islands as they slowly submerged below water-level while we viewed beyond the seawall across Langstone Harbour.

Ringed plovers at Farlington Marshes.

As expected, the waders with the shortest legs were the first to take flight to escape their rapidly receding retreats. These included in order of leg length, ringed plovers.

Dunlins in flight at Farlington.

Dunlin.

Grey plover at Farlington Marshes.

Grey plover.

Lapwings at Farlington Marshes.

And lapwing.

Turnstone.

Eventually just one island remained within sight in the harbour. Although distant to view, a few grey plovers jostled to keep a place among the remaining turnstones.

Oystercatchers in flight over Farlington Marshes.

Oystercatchers.

Black-tailed godwits and redshanks, Farlington Marshes.

As well as black-tailed godwits all leaving it to the last moment to surrender their sanctuary, taking flight in large flocks across harbour.

Shelducks in Langstone Harbour.

Rather than taking immediate flight, the more buoyant wildfowl, such as shelduck, just floated about aimlessly for a while as the ground around them submerged below their webbed feet.

Brent geese with various waders, Farlington Marshes.

Also among the gathering were now growing numbers of wintering brent geese that had recently arrived from their 2,500-mile journey from their breeding grounds in Siberia.

Pintail ducks at Farlington Marshes.

Pintail ducks were also increasing in their number since my previous visit just a few weeks before, with many already beginning to look quite smart in their plumage.

By the time we had walked to the main lake, many of the waders that had been evicted from the, now submerged islands in the harbour had taken refuge there.

Kestrel at Farlington Marshes.

The smaller ones often spooked up by one of the several resident kestrels that were busy hunting around the reserve.

Teal.

A growing number of teal had also now arrived to winter both in and around the main lake.

Wigeon.

Along with an increasing wintering wigeon population.

Barnacle goose at Farlington Marshes.

The lone, long-staying barnacle goose of dubious origin continued to graze out on the marshland.

Little egret, Farlington Marshes.

While several little egrets were also present.

Kingfisher at Farlington Marshes.

Probably one of my most endearing sightings of the day, and one I spent most of my time watching and photographing from the viewpoint, was an extremely confiding female kingfisher.

She spent her time posing while perched on the various posts jutting from the water just below the seated area that looks out across the lake.

Weather systems driven in from the Atlantic ruled the roost during the first week of November bringing a continued dominance of low pressure and unsettled weather.

While the now absence of a southerly brought temperatures to an average for the time of year. The Met Office issued a yellow warning as storm Claudio began to drive up though the English Channel on November 2.

The waterside hide at Tice’s Meadow.

As much rain fell around the Surrey Hills during the first week of the month as is typical of the entire month. Still, however, surprisingly, at Tice’s Meadow, the waterside hide remained able to visit.

Great white egret, Tice’s Meadow.

Out on the water the great white egret seen just the previous week there had made a return visit, although it was, once again, no closer to photograph.

Wigeon, Tice’s Meadow.

Adding to the viewings from the waterside hide was a small raft of wigeon.

Pochard, Tice’s Meadow.

Several pochard.

Gadwall, Tice’s Meadow.

As well as gadwall.

Red kite, Shackleford.

Elsewhere locally, birds noted and photographed included red kites and common buzzards at several locations including Shackleford, near Godalming.

Common buzzard, being mobbed by ‘corvids’.

Redwing, Worplesdon Churchyard.

Redwings continuing to deplete the yew berries at Worplesdon churchyard on Perry Hill.

Egyptian geese at Britten’s Pond.

Egyptian geese at Britten’s Pond.

Wintering flock movement of wood pigeons.

Numerous winter movements of large flocks of wood pigeons around the Surrey Hills.

Slow worm, Crooksbury Common.

And even a very late in the year sighting of a slow worm on Crooksbury Common.

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