Saturday, 1 February 2014

1st February - Farlington Marshes

I met up with Ian at Farlington on a day when strong winds, heavy showers and a very high spring tide was due, it was also the morning after a night of heavy rain.  We set off along the sea wall walking through puddles, while looking across the Hay Field you could see many flooded areas.

The tide was rising, and the Brent Geese were already feeding in the fields, and more passed over us coming in from the sea.  The wind was picking up so the chance to see the Bearded Reedlings was not good, and it was probably going to be the same for the Short eared Owl reported during the week.

We walked around to the point and picked up a Peregrine low over the water.  It settled on the island that was very quickly being covered by the tide.  This is an attempt at a digi-scope picture with my phone held to the scope eye piece, not the best photography I have posted but you can see it is a Peregrine sitting to the left of the rocks sticking up.

We then experienced all forms of weather.  First the sun, then a complete rainbow, then rain and finally horizontal hail.  We toughed it out as did the Peregrine.  Waders were now flying around looking for any patch of land to roost on, the tide rising fast.  They even tried to settle on the island with the Peregrine but quickly decided against it.

The falcon then took to the air, and flew up gently into the sun.  It climbed quite high, then turned, pulled in the wings and shot like a missile back down, then lowe over the water scattering a flock of waders, as it pulled up we could see it had taken a small wader probably a dunlin, it then flew back to what remained of the island to eat its catch.  With the tide now almost covering the island it flew off still carrying what remained of its meal.  Who needs cheetahs on the Masai Mara, when you have a top, top predator displaying its skills like this?

The tide was now very high and the waders were pouring over the sea wall to find dry land to roost.  Out in the harbour any dry land was now covered.  The waders, Knot, Dunlin and Grey Plover put on a spectacular show.

They were picking out islands within the pools but would not settle and would be up and away almost as soon as landing.

On one of the panics and flock flying off I picked up a small falcon flying below the flock, it swerved in but failed to catch anything, from the size and tail length it could only have been a Merlin.

The waders continued to put on a wonderful show, and another Peregrine appeared, this time a large bird probably an adult female.  We watched her zip across the marsh, and attempted to knock down a Brent Goose, which just dropped to the marsh to evade the lunge.

The wader show is emphasised by the flashes of white created by the turning  of the birds, flashing the white undersides.

This is the upper side.

Then as they all turn together the white under side flashes in the winter sun.

You can also see this in the video.

The action was all around us, and out on the sea large flocks were wheeling around against the battleship grey sea.

We decided to walk on, and stopped to watch the amazing number of Shelduck that were all over the fields, joined by many Curlew.  From one of the wildlife counters who were attempting to count the birds on the marsh the number of Shelduck was 334.

The weather then returned, and we sat with our backs to the wind, rain and hail, the wind was so strong it was whipping spray off the sea creating a mist that was quite strange.  The wind and rain eased so we decided to make our way back to the relative calm of the car park.

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