Saturday, 7 February 2015

7th February - Farlington Marshes

Difficult decision today, where to go, we settled for Farlington Marshes as there was a high tide at a good time, and that meant the chance of some good shows by the waders as the tide rises.

The journey took us through drizzle, and cloud with the temperature just above freezing.  When we arrived the the sun was out and there was quite a bit of blue sky about.  The tide was still a far way out, and Brent were feeding on the mud in front of car park.  As we put on our boots we were joined by a Stonechat, but it quickly disappeared to leave the Brent Geese as the only birds of interest as we set off.

We decided to take a clock wise walk instead of the usual anti-clockwise, this meant we walked along the cycle track, then through to the sightings hut.  There were more Brent Geese on the lake as we walked past, some feeding on the grass bank, others in the water

The path opens out into the fields where there were more Brent, and several Canada Geese.  However the dominant birds were Lapwing, they seemed to be everywhere.  A pair of Stonechat were initially on the fence, then they dropped to the grass and busied themselves among the tussocks.

When we reached the sea wall the tide was still a fair way out, and small waders were feeding close in.  As we appeared though they flew off, they were mostly Dunlin, with a few Ringed Plover as well.

With the tide on the move the Brent were restless, and would continually move from the mud to the fields and then back again, their contact calls the dominant sound above the wind and traffic.

The Brent weren't though the only birds on the move, a pair of Pintail came from across the fields and out over the sea wall to the open water.

Wigeon were feeding on the grass by the side of the pools, but something spooked them and they suddenly flew up, and into the water.

Once in they were clearly agitated as if they found the water too cold.  They never really settled, reaching up and vigorously flapping wings, and whistling continually.

Just after this photograph was taken then turned around and in a line swam to an easy exit point and all left the water to start feeding again.

The sun was now changing the colour of the water in the pools to a lovely blue, and the Brent Geese standing in the shallows cast a lovely reflection in the ripples.

At the back of the pool a drake Pintail was stretching its head upwards. At first I thought this was some sort of display, but as I watched it was clear the duck was drinking, something that all the ducks do after coming in from the harbour water.

Looking back to the mud, there were still plenty of Dunlin feeding by the edge of the water or in the muddy pools.

As we walked on we reached the southerly point of the sea wall, the sun still low in the sky despite it being nearly midday was creating a monochromatic scene for the waders.  This Dunlin was skipping across the water.

While these two were very intent on feeding.

The tide was now racing in and the channel was filling fast.  As a result Red-breasted Mergansers appeared in the far out in the middle.  Too far for a good picture, this is just a record.

We walked towards the Lake, and more Brent came over us, this time very low and close, their honks clearly heard along with the rush of their wings.

Of the many Lapwing that were all over the fields this one was on its own, and quite close to the sea wall.

As we approached the Lake, despite the tide still having a fair way to go to cover the mud, a large flock of Dunlin suddenly flew up and wheeled around flashing brown and white.

And then they flew off around the sea wall and not over it, off into the glare of the sunshine.

This is what I was hoping for, but scanning out into the harbour I could see a huge flock away in the distance, had the waders suddenly all gone at the same time, was this the trigger for the Dunlin we saw close to us?

We decided to walk back to the southerly point in the hope that more waders would put on a show.  As we walked on a pair of Shelduck flew over, to add to the flying photographs today.

In the fields there was a large flock of Brent Geese we a few Wigeon as well.  The Brent wanted to feed and a drake Teal appeared to be in the way, and the Brent chased it off.  As the geese drank in the pool it reminded me bizarrely of Zebra in Africa.

My fears appeared to be founded, the waders were not going to perform in any significant numbers.  Small flocks flew past, but none came over our heads to provide that wonderful experience of the wind rushing through the wings.  There was though a large flock of Pintail on the water, but they were all very distant.  This pair were the closest to the wall.

After waiting for awhile in hope that something would happen we finally decided to walk back to the lake.  As we approached we could see the Avocet in the middle of the lake, and they were quite clearly a little unsettled as they would take off, fly around the lake, and then settle back down.

When we reached the view point we stopped to watch the Avocet, and almost immediately they were off again.

The black and white standing out as they flew back and forth.  This time though they were not looking to settle back down on the lake, and the circling gained them height.

They then flew out into the harbour, and away off into the distance, finally settling on an exposed island.  It looked as if this soon would be covered by the tide, and then the Avocet would return so we stopped and waited.

While we waited for the Avocet, there were several snoozing Mallard close to the reeds in the sunshine.  The light was catching the feathers on their heads and dependent on the angle to the sun would reflect either a vivid green or a deep blue.  How often do we look at the plumage of these overlooked ducks?

Pintail started to fly in from out in the harbour.  As they came over the sea wall they would ease off and slowly descend onto the water.

Several pairs flew in and the numbers on the lake increased.  

I counted 38 birds, and eventually they started to come close to allow some a good chance to photograph them on the water.

The island the Avocet were on was now covered over, but the Avocet had decided to swim rather than fly back so we decided to walk back to the car.  As we did so I heard Bearded Tits, but was never able to see them.

On a small island a few waders remained in the the harbour, here you can see Grey Plover, Oystercatcher and a Turnstone.

As we reached the end of the sea wall the Avocet decided to take off.  A group of 12 flew off towards the lake, but the other flew to a more open area of water, where again they settled to swim.

In total there were 58 Avocet, quite a good number.  We left the wall and headed back to the car.  The wind had been cold, but then we are in cold weather training.  We left to do a few other tasks and then home, where dinner tonight ironically was going to be duck

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