Sunday, 17 January 2016

16th January - Southsea and Farlington Marshes, Hampshire

As I set off this morning the temperature was minus four degrees, the last time I was out in cold such as this was ion Svalbard, but this morning still had another sixteen degrees to go.  
I arrived on Southsea seafront just before dawn, the sky and sea looking wonderful in the cold air.

As I waited for Ian to arrive the lamp posts along the front stood out in the pre dawn light.

Starlings that had been roosting on the pier were singing from the tops of the posts, in the cold you could see their breath as they chattered away.

Ian arrived just before the sun started to appear above the horizon, and out of the sea.

The speed at which it rises is amazing, the light refracting and creating a hamburger shape as it did so.

Out on the horizon a fishing boat made its way through the sun.

Finally a sold ball of fire in what was a spectacular orange sky.

With the sun now up the Brent Geese were moving coming off the fields and heading out to sea.

and then out past the orange sky and rising sun.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky it cast an orange sparkle across the sea.

It was hard to leave the rising sun, but we were here to walk to the castle.  As we passed the pier a Great Black-backed Gull was out on the sea.

But soon the early morning light was causing us to stop once again.  This time it was turning the gentle surf into gold, and in amongst it a first year Herring gull stood.

We made our way along the beach, there were several dead starfish washed up on the shingle, victims of the recent storms the south coast has endured.

As we walked towards the castle, looking back the pier stood out in the cold light of the morning.

The tide had exposed the sand beyond the shingle, and in the shallow water Black-headed Gulls stood where last week they were dipping into the surf, picking up any little titbit.  The golden light picking them out.

We were hoping that we could find the Purple Sandpipers around the castle, but the tide was too low this time, and they were probably hidden out of sight on the rocks.  It was too slippery to get closer, so we walked up and down in the hope that they might appear.

A couple of Herring Gulls had found a Starfish and were attempting to eat it, although it did pose several problems.  It was as if the Starfish was the last thing they wanted to eat.

Out on the sea there was one Shag present, an adult bird.

On the exposed sea weed a Rock Pipit was foraging for insects.

It followed us as we walked back and forth in the hope the Sandpipers might appear.  There were waders present but these were in the form of two Oystercatchers.

On the castle itself several Feral Pigeons sat on the walls soaking in the sunshine.  Take the time to really look at these birds they have a wonderful plumage

Ian then pointed out something in the moat.  It was a fox.  It watched us as we watched it.

it then turned and headed back through the bars and away.

The sandpipers were not going to show, so we decided to once again cut our losses and head to Farlington Marshes.  The conditions were perfect for owls, and there had been two reported yesterday,

On arrival we set off through the bushes.  There seemed to be Robins everywhere.

And where there weren't Robins there were Song Thrushes.

We walked towards the information hut, a single Lapwing showed well close in, the light helping to show again what overlooked birds they can be.

On the pool at the back of the hut we found a Grey Wagtail bobbing away as it fed on the water's edge.

I then went into the hut, but I an called me back as a small raptor flew over.  As we watched it fly past and away it definitely was not a Kestrel, and didn't fly like a Sparrowhawk, from the size, speed and colour we both agreed it was a Merlin.

We walked on, hoping that maybe through the day it would return.  Looking into the sunshine the reeds looked impressive, definitely the best was to see them.

We made our way to the sea wall.  In the fields on both sides were large flocks of Brent Geese, and in the grass close to the path were several Meadow Pipits.

The tide was far out, and we walked to the corner just past the Block House where there were some benches and a good watch point.  We stopped here for a cup of coffee, and also took the opportunity to talk to another birder as he walked by.  He told us that he had a very brief glimpse of a Short-eared Owl, and as he said this I turned and saw one coming over the marsh towards us.

All three of us stood and watched as it flew past us, and around the grass and mounds.

It flew around going far away from us, and then heading back, finally settling on an ant hill in the middle of the marsh.

It didn't settle for long and was soon off again, but would come back to the same mounds before setting off once again.

We watched it flying around, following the same route and using the same mounds to settle on, definitely an owl of habit.

We watched it for about 45 minutes before it seemed to disappear into Point Field.  We decided to walk on towards the point.  In the Deeps Shoveler were sleeping on the banks of the pool.

The Tide was now rising, and Pintail could be seen coming from the harbour onto the Deeps.

Wigeon were also having a wash and brush up in the pools.

We could once again see the owl in the area we had left, but the people we were standing next to pointed out another one sitting on a mound close to the hedge and fence of Point Field.  There were two, and as we watched this one it seemed to get a little nervous when the Rabbits appeared.

Finally it flew off, and went around the far side of Point Field, so we decided we should go in there to see if we could get a close view.  We set up by the gate that allowed us to see both the field and the marsh, and soon after arriving the owl appeared.

We were the treated to some wonderful views as it hawked the bushes and long grass.

It then settled on a mound close to the gate.

Then it was up again, and flying close to us.

We watched as it flew around the field, finally dropping on something.  As we watched we could see it had a vole or mouse, and in one movement it threw its head back and swallowed it whole.  It then sat there between two bramble bushes

Then it was off for one final pass.

We waited to see if it would return, but it seems it was off for a rest to digest its meal.  As we watched the marsh four Green Sandpipers, maybe more flew in to the Deeps.

We decided after awhile to make our way back to the sea wall.  The tide was now high, and the waders were moving looking for a safe roost.  Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover flew past.  There were also a large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits that passed us heading for dry land.

Out on the water Red-breasted Mergansers drifted slowly, their crests sticking up like punk haircuts.

A Little Egret flew in amongst the exposed reeds.

On the lake a group of male Teal were displaying to a single female.  The display consists of a dip, and then lifting itself out of the water.

As well as the teal there was a good number of Pintail, always a lovely duck, but looking even more splendid in the afternoon sunshine.

Out on the marsh the geese and duck would fly up repeatedly, these Shelduck flying round amongst the geese.

Some of the Brent Geese came over our heads as we stood on the sea wall.

Roosting on the lake were Redshanks a few Dunlin and two Avocets that were washing in the freshwater.

Movement in the reeds attracted some attention, but the birds feeding on the seed heads were Reed Bunting.

The sun finally left us, going behind a bank of cloud.  This completely changed the light but not in a bad way, this teal with its reflection in the water looking very nice.

We decided to walk alongside the lake. On the water the Avocet were feeding, and I was able to get quite close to a lovely drake Pintail.

It was quite dark now but the duck gave some great views, and you can see what a beautiful duck it is.

Then I just got too close and it flew off.

We made our way to the main path, disturbing several Snipe from their roosts.  As we walked back to the car we reflected on what had been a great day.  The weather finally allowing me to get the best out of the new camera

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