Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No.289

Published on: 10 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 10 Oct, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

Autumn had arrived on our doorsteps throughout southern regions of the UK by last weeks of September.

Hurricane season had already begun along the eastern coast of North America and low pressure systems (and a few migrating passerines) were heading across the Atlantic on a strong jet stream in the direction of the UK.

Thus bringing a bumper early crop of rarities to make landfall on the western coastal regions of the British Isles.

Although invites came my way to venture out of my comfort zone to view some of such delightful ‘critters’ that were being found, it all felt a bit manic to me, having experienced my share of ‘twitches’ in the past.

Previous photo of a black-and-white warbler on Tresco, Isles of Scilly.

One of my personal favourites being a black and white warbler on the Isles of Scilly in October 2020. These beauties also being among the recent plethora of arrivals.

These days, as well as visits to my local ‘patches’ around the west side of Surrey, I was more content with the opportunity of several visits to Farlington Marshes that came my way on some of the more settled and dry occasions during the latter days of the month.

Farlington Marshes, near Portsmouth, is just a short trip down the A3 and the nearest coastal reserve for me. It allows the opportunity to view some of the birds not often seen in Surrey, some returning from their breeding grounds in the sub Arctic. It was also an opportunity to add a few more observations to this year’s sightings list.

Spoonbill in flight

These included a spoonbill in flight over Langstone Harbour on my arrival, my first visit being on September 15. These birds are now a UK breeding species.

Yellow wagtail, Farlington Marshes.

On later visits I also added yellow wagtails feeding among the cattle as they began their migration back to Africa.

Curlew sandpipers.

Also adding several curlew sandpipers.

Ruff, Farlington Marshes.

And a rather confiding ruff, to add to my year’s listings.

Pintail, Farlington.

A few pintail ducks had already made a return to winter there.

Wigeon, Farlington Marshes.

And a few wigeon could now also be viewed.

Brent goose, Farlington.

While one of a small group of brent geese that had been recently been reported having returned from their summer breeding grounds in Siberia could also be seen.

Black-tailed godwits, Farlington Marshes.

A group in excess of 30 black-tailed godwits could also be seen on the main lake.

Avocet, Farlington.

And a small group of avocets were also present.

Waders in flight, Farlington Marshes.

Along with various other waders out on the main lake.

Grey plovers and knot, on marshes, at Farlington.

These including, grey plovers and among them a few knot could likewise be viewed.

Lapwing at Farlington Marshes.

Also present were several lapwings.

Oystercatcher, Farlington Marshes.

As well as a large group of oystercatchers.

Common redshank.

Common redshanks.

Common snipe, Farlington Marshes.

A few common snipe had begun to return to winter there.

Common sandpiper.

And a common sandpiper that had stopped off to visit.

Shelduck, in flight.

A few shelduck could be seen in flight.

Bearded tits, Farlington.

Among the best of my sightings was to see a group of half a dozen or more bearded tits feeding in the phragmites reed beds at the front of the main lake. A sight I had rarely seen there on my visits over the previous year or more.


While swallows hawked insects over the reedbeds.

Wheatear, Farlington Marshes.

Along the seawall a wheatear could be viewed, while on another visit one could be seen in the field.

Ringed plover, Farlington.

Ringed plovers dabbled their small bills on the mudflats of a receded tide.

Curlew, Farlington Marshes.

Also probing the mudflats with their longer bills were some curlews.

Little egrets, Farlington.

And several little egrets were dotted about out on Langstone Harbour, as well as around the inland reserve.

Osprey Farlington Marshes.

Looking out from the eastern seawall across the harbour to North Binness Island, an osprey could be viewed.

Kestrel in flight, Farlington Marshes.

Across the inland marshes a resident hovering kestrel could regularly be viewed hunting over the fields.

Common buzzard, Farlington.

While a common buzzard was also a regular sight.

Barnacle goose with its mate, the white goose, at Farlington Marshes.

The resident barnacle goose was still present and hanging about, as usual, with his mate, a white feral domestic goose.

Cattle egret, Farlington.

And as many as seven cattle egrets were recent arrivals there and could be seen feeding among the cattle.

Whinchat, at Farlington.

On one of the recent visits several whinchats had stopped off on their migration to Africa.

In the warm sunshine on the days I visited, the now growing number of the various wading birds was rapidly becoming quite scintillating to view and starting to give feel that autumn was in the air.

Goldfinches, Farlington Marshes.

However, also present were a flock of 20 or more goldfinches.


And a small flock of linnets feeding around the area known as the ‘deeps’.

Starlings, Farlington Marshes.

Starlings were now growing in their number there.

Meadow pipit, Farlington Marshes.

While meadow pipits were returning there to winter.

Spoonbills, Oare Marshes.

A visit to Oare Marshes, near Faversham, in Kent on September 18 in the company of Bob, Dougal and Steve, allowed me some slightly better views of spoonbills than my previous sighting of the one at Langstone Harbour.

Wheatear, Oare Marshes.

And although not adding anything to my year’s sightings, I managed a few nice additions to my photographs, including a wheatear along the banks of the River Swale.

White-fronted goose, Oare Marshes.

A white-fronted goose was also present.

Little egret, Oare Marshes.

As well as getting an in-flight shot of a little egret.

Great white egret, Tice’s Meadow.

Elsewhere, and more closer to home, at Tice’s Meadow I got to see my first Surrey sighting of the year of a great white egret that had been occasionally visiting in recent weeks.

Great crested grebe (adult behind) and juvenile at Tice’s Meadow.

While close to the waterside hide an adult great crested grebe could be viewed with a juvenile.

Raven, Whitmoor Common.

At Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon during the latter weeks of the month, on several occasions a pair of ravens could be viewed flying over.

Hobby, Whitmoor Common.

While a hobby mentioned in my previous report made another appearance.

Kestrel, Whitmoor Common.

The resident kestrel continued to be observed.

House martin.

And during several of my visits, a stream of 40 or more house martins could be counted, hawking just over the tree line and heathland in small groups as they passed through.

Meadow pipit, on Whitmoor Common.

A few meadow pipits had returned to winter on the heathland.

Stonechat, Whitmoor Common.

While several resident pairs of stonechats continued to be viewed.

Dartford warbler on Whitmoor Common.

And Dartford warblers continued to be noted.

Roe deer, Whitmoor Common.

I also had close encounter with stag roe deer that could be seen foraging in a woodland glade close to the car park.

Blackbird feeding on rowan berries, Whitmoor Common.

During the last week of the month, a blackbird could be seen already starting to pick off a few of the rowan berries from one of the heavily laden trees before having to give the lions share up for the winter thrushes that will soon arrive from Scandinavia to plunder the now ripening fruits

Blue tit, feeding on berries.

While blue tits were starting to peck at the abundant hawthorn crops.

Jay, Whitmoor Common.

Several jays could also now be viewed searching through the understory of the woodland, already collecting acorns for their seasonal larder.

With daylight hours rapidity closing, was it time to concede that another winter was on its way?

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.289

  1. David and Sylvia Millett Reply

    October 22, 2023 at 2:49 pm

    We love your photos. Do keep them coming.
    The picture of the jay is marvellous.

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