Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Farlington Marshes, Pagham, Selsey

Easter Sunday, or 'Chocolate Day' as Rob prefers to call it, and we jumped in the car and headed for Farlington Marshes near Portsmouth, a place neither of us had visited before. On the way we hit a huge traffic jam just next to the turning for Thursley Common and might have had an instant change of plan if it had been one month later... but Thursley in early April would probably have been a bit quiet. So we sat out the delay and finally reached Portsmouthish at about lunchtime. Some roundabout-related shenanigans ensued before we located the place we were supposed to park to walk on the marsh.

This is a Hampshire Wildife Trust reserve occupying a little stubby promontary into Langstone Harbour. A path just inside the sea wall takes you round almost the whole reserve, and you can walk on the sea wall if you like (good thing too, as it was VERY wet underfoot on the path itself). Inland there is mostly wet grassland with a few pools, some of them reedy. The exposed position of the path means getting close to the birds is... well, we didn't. So while there were plenty of birds around (Curlews, Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, Teals, Little Egrets etc) they were all Far Away. Again.

Farlington is famous for its Dark-bellied Brent Geese in winter. There were only a handful around today, individuals which, for whatever reason, hadn't yet gone back to Russia to breed. This one looked splendid in the intermittent sunshine - I'm sure he/she will have no difficulty finding a willing partner on return to the homeland.

We opted to go on to Pagham Harbour for the rest of the day. It began to rain as we arrived but proved just a passing shower and the sun came out properly for the end of the day, just as it had done on Friday and Saturday.

There is a bizarrely sited hide at Pagham, overlooking Ferry Pond by the roadside. Unfortunately, the hide is on the other side of the road to the pond. so you have to put up with lorries periodically interrupting your view of the waders and ducks on the pond. In between the traffic I found a couple of snoozing Avocets on the shore, too far away for pics. By the path was a more obliging quarry - a rather nice clump of violets which I hope to get round to identifying to species one of these days.

As we strolled alongside the harbour we saw several passing Redshanks, Shelducks and a small flock of Grey Plovers flaunting their black armpits at us. Then a wonderfully obliging Little Egret flew in and performed beautifully in the nearby shallow creeks, stalking about and making flashy strikes at little beasties in the water and among the soggy sedges and grass tussocks.

Nearby, a particularly stately-looking Curlew foraged with ponderous dignity around the small pools. This pic is one of the last in a series of about 100 - Rob experimented with different angles and this one was the result of him pointing his shadow directly towards the bird - colours came out quite nicely.

We ended the day at Selsey Bill, where there were few birds (Cormorant passing by at sea, various gulls including Great Black-backed), but there was a brisk, chilly wind which discouraged us from hanging around and enjoying the last of the sunshine.

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