Farlington Marshes 9 October 2021

Nine members met under a clear blue sky to walk around Farlington Marsh on land reclaimed in the 1700s. Though the tide was low we headed for the lake to try for bearded reedlings at their most active. The strategy paid off as we enjoyed good views of five swaying at the top of the tall reeds, the soft browns and blues highlighted in the sunshine. Formerly called bearded tits the reedling is actually a sister to the larks.  A water rail located at the back of the lake and threading its way stealthily through the reeds was another great sighting. Loud bursts of song came from a nearby Cetti’s warbler hidden in the rushes.

We then took the path diagonally through the western corner of the reserve and by one of the water-filled bomb craters (the area was used to burn fires during World War II to decoy bombers away from nearby Portsmouth) we found an active collection of blackcaps, Cetti’s warblers and chiffchaffs.  A sparrowhawk glided over our heads. Approaching the Deeps we saw many little egrets, at which point an eagle-eyed member saw the head of a glossy ibis and focused us on the area. After a minute’s anticipation we saw a purple head, then a long curved beak and a few minutes later the whole bird as it climbed out of a ditch on to he bank. The dark purple colour stood out in the bright sun. A peregrine flew over high and straight, the bulky body, tapered wings and continuous flight contrasting with the earlier sparrowhawk.

Having finished the circumnavigation of the reserve, we returned to the main lake before high tide. As well as the usual waders and ducks we were aware that a curlew sandpiper had been reported. Trying to locate it among the 20+ dunlins that were running round the legs of black-tailed godwits and a few ringed plovers proved very difficult. However we eventually succeeded in finding the target bird despite the marginal differences in size, bill length and shape from the dunlins but fortunately the good light enabled us to note the peachy wash of a juvenile as well as its slightly longer legs and different running style.

The walk proved both enjoyable and productive with 47 species identified, with some scarce birds seen in excellent viewing conditions.

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