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Farlington Marshes – 2 February 2022

Ken and Sarah White chose Tuesday 2 February, the date of the maximum spring tide, for a visit to Farlington Marshes, a reserve of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Members gathered at the entrance to the reserve at 09:00, before setting off anticlockwise along the path which runs along the top of the sea wall. The mudflats in the harbour were still extensive, but shrinking rapidly as the tide rose. There were close views of a small flock of Pintail and waders seen included Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover and Ringed Plover. Turnstones were turning over the seaweed in their hunt for food. Canada Geese and a big flock of Brent Geese were grazing on the grass on the landward side of the sea wall. There were very few juveniles, distinguished by white bands on their backs, indicating that the birds had had a poor breeding season in 2021. Continuing a short distance along the sea wall, the number of birds on a shallow brackish lagoon steadily rose as more and more flew in from the rapidly diminishing mudflats. Teal lined up on the banks along the edge of the reed-bed and amongst them were two Snipe. A flock of about 30 Avocets flew in from the western edge of the harbour. There were at least 30 Black-tailed Godwits and three much paler-looking Greenshanks. Also seen were larger flocks of Redshank, Dunlin and Lapwing. A Little Grebe was diving in the water and a Kingfisher flew out across the harbour. A cold wind blew across the marshes as the group continued along the sea wall. The leaves of Sea Purslane and Rock Samphire were found on the sides of the sea wall, while tiny rosettes of Buck’s-horn Plantain were growing amongst the stones of the track. The next section of the reserve on the landward side of the sea wall consisted of open grassy fields, hedgerows, patches of scrub, small pools and wet ditches. Birds seen here included Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Linnet, Song Thrush, Little Egret, Shelduck, Kestrel and Buzzard. Gradually, the wind dropped, the sun came out and the temperature was almost pleasantly warm as the group settled down on the seaward side of the sea wall for a picnic. The tide was close to its peak and any remaining birds were forced off the final scraps of dry land out in the harbour. In the distance to the east, an enormous flock of Golden Plover wheeled in the sky, while closer in, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were swimming out on the channel. The walk continued along the sea wall, round the eastern part of the reserve. Big flocks of Wigeon and Brent Goose were grazing on the marsh and other species seen here included a few Shoveler and Gadwall. Two Stonechats, thought to be a female and a juvenile male, perched on top of the hedge which borders the marsh. Out over the harbour to the east, a big mixed flock of flying waders sorted itself into larger Golden Plover above and smaller Dunlin below. There was an unusually large flotilla of Great Crested Grebes, with a total of 20 birds counted. On the walk back to the cars, a large, shallow pool harboured a Cetti’s Warbler, two diving Little Grebes and more Black-tailed Godwits.