Friday, 26 February 2016

Farlington Marshes LNR.

On Sunday (28 Feb) I will be leading a field trip for the Surrey Bird Club (SBC) to Farlington Marshes LNR that comprises around 300 acres of coastal grazing marsh, reed beds, scrub, with both freshwater and brackish pools. The land was first reclaimed from Langstone harbour between 1769 and 1773 by building a clay and timber wall to provide grazing land for cattle. The sea wall has been much improved and provides an ideal route around the reserve to view the wildlife both within the marshes and on the sea or extensive mudflats at low tide. 

On Tuesday I made a recce visit to check out the wildlife and to get some images of the species that can be seen here just in case the windy weather that is forecast for Sunday doesn't provide me with many photo opportunities.

During the winter months one of the main attractions are the very large flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese that feed on the grazing marsh.

At this time of year the marsh also supports good numbers of Curlew, Northern Pintail, Oystercatchers, Lapwing and Teal plus I was also fortunate to get several sightings of two Short-eared Owls.

During my recent visit I also saw three species of Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Dunlin, Redshank, Grey Plover, Knot and Turnstone plus good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits (see below) disturbed from feeding by a low flying Common Buzzard.

At high tide I also watched the spectacle of many hundreds of Dunlin streaming close above the water seeking out a suitable spot to roost and wait for the mud to reappear while inland there is always something else to capture one's attention such as ....

a perching Stonechat, one of many Northern Shoveler in their full breeding plumage and the various gull species including the Black-headed Gull. The site also hosts reasonable numbers of Little Egret (see below).

During my wandering I logged about 50 species but with more eyes on Sunday it is possible to add a few more including Kingfisher, Peregrine, Merlin, Water Rail, Rock Pipit, and the elusive Bearded Tits. FAB.

Linking to: Saturday's Critters, I'D-Rather-B-Birdin' and Through My Lens.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Red Listed Curlew.

For me any visit to a coastal marsh or inter-tidal mudflats would not be the same without the evocative and distinctive rhythmic, rippling flight song or far-carrying whistling "cour-lii" call of our largest wader the [Eurasian] Curlew (Numenius arquata).

During a recent wander, on a very cold and extremely windy morning, around the disused oyster beds on Hayling Island  I was fortunate to find this individual in a water filled gully below my feet thus enabling me to get a few images without disturbing its feeding activities.

Its diet is principally invertebrates located by the sensitive bill tip as it constantly probes the mud.

Due to the continued rapid declining trends of its wintering / breeding range and overall population numbers (1969 - 2010) within the European part of its extremely large global range this species is now classed as vulnerable and has now been placed on the 'RED List'. For more information click here.

All images taken 'handheld' with 70-300mm lens plus 1.4x converter. [ISO 400; f/11; 1/320 - 1/400 @ 420mm].

Linking to:
Through My Lens
Nature Notes

Wild Bird Wednesday

Friday, 19 February 2016

London Wetland Centre.

With a forecast of a few hours of decent weather on Friday morning I paid another visit to the London Wetland Centre at Barnes in the hope of catching up with a Bittern but it was not to be. Nevertheless there was still plenty of birds on view, both wild and captured species.

My southerly route towards the main reed-beds provided an opportunity to snap a few of the captive species including Hooded Merganser, Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck.

A male Tufted Duck

A scan over the flooded grazing marsh produced Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Teal, Canada Geese, a single Egyptian Goose plus numerous Northern Shoveler, many enjoying a preening session in the sunshine.

The centre which opened in 2000 occupies the site of the former Barn Elms reservoirs covering a total area of about 100 acres including open water, muddy banks, grazing marsh, some woodland and an extensive reedbed right in the heart of the south London urban landscape. Three quarters of the site was designated an Site of Scientific Interest in 2002.

My route back to the centre only produced one additional sighting, an over flying Little Egret. The northern part of the reserve has several hides overlooking the open water enabling decent views, albeit often distant of the ducks, gulls and and a much reduced number of Northern Lapwing.

My only raptor sighting was a male Sparrowhawk who made a brief appearance on one of the small islands and from the first floor of the Peacock Hide I spotted a male Pintail (below) in its elegant finery fortunately within reach of the lens.

Despite the lack of a Bittern sighting (again!) it was a joy to be out in the winter sunshine enjoying our native wildlife. FAB.

Linking to Saturday's Critters and I'D-Rather-B-Birdin' 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Sitting Pretty.

A trip to Hayling Island today provided an opportunity to walk part of the 'Billy Trail' and a brief encounter with a male [Common] Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). I initially spotted him hovering over a nearby paddock in a very strong breeze while searching for voles and then he decided to take a rest on a fence post.

I guess the 'click' of the camera briefly caught his attention but he quickly returned to eyeing up any movement beneath a nearby hedge before pouncing on some likely prey unfortunately out of my line of sight.


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Patch Birds.

Visits to my local patch have been somewhat infrequent this year mainly due to the inclement weather. 

Earlier this week on a very blustery morning following severe overnight gales  initially there seemed to be very little avian activity apart from a single Black-headed Gull on sentry duty ...

 ... and a solitary Coot resting at the waters edge.

When I reached the Great Pond the effect of the recent high rainfall was clear to see with water stretching far beyond its normal boundaries. Again it appeared bird-less but as the sun peeked through several species emerged from the saturated wooded margins. I logged around 30 Mallard, a pair of Northern Shoveler, a single male Tufted Duck and a pair of Teal.

As I circled the pond I noticed the emergence of a very colourful species that regularly appears at this time of year ... Mandarin Ducks. Initially two pairs drifted into view and then a further six males joined the party.

After a short time at least four of the males departed. In previous years I have often seen ten or more males chasing after just one or two females before trying their luck elsewhere!

 It will be interesting to see whether any of the pairs hang around.  FAB.



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