Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Water Rails

Wednesday and with the sun shining and the snow melting we decided to head down to Farlington Marsh so that Dave could add the Red-breasted Goose and Spoonbill to his year list. We managed to spot the Spoonbill in the distance and we had great fun standing in the freezing cold and scanning a couple of thousand Brent geese but we saw no sign of the Red-breasted.

We decided to move on to Baffins Pond in Portsmouth to find some reported obliging Water Rails, with the intention of returning to the marsh later. Baffins Pond seemed a most unlikely place to find the Water Rails. Smallish pond with a couple of reed beds, a children's play area, traffic on three sides, and lots of people and dog walkers wandering about. Yet the Water Rails were there and very visible. At least three that we saw and possibly more.

Water Rail emerging from the reeds
and out in the open

Although using the reed beds for cover they made frequent appearances in the open and did not seem to be disturbed by people standing close by watching them. At one point a photographer lost his bean bag over the fence and climbed over into the reed bed to recover it, carrying out a bit of gardening to clear reeds obstructing his view on the way. Can't say that I was happy, that sort of thing gives photographers a bad name, and I thought we had seen the last of the birds, but two minutes later they were back out in the open.

Great pictures of a shy and skulking bird and far more satisfying than photographing the tame one at Pulborough Brooks.

Then on to Southsea Castle to see if we could improve on our Purple Sandpiper pictures. It is always difficult on the south coast, You need sunlight for the pictures but that invariably means that for sea birds and waders you are photographing into the sun. So a couple of reasonable pictures but nothing outstanding.

Purple Sandpiper

Braving the surf

Then back to Farlington Marsh and another circuit looking for the Red-breasted Goose. A Stonechat was a good find as it is the first I have seen this year.


This time we spotted the Red-breasted in the distance and were fortunate when the flock relocated and it ended up close to the footpath.

Red-breasted Goose
You would think that a red goose in a field of black geese would be easy to see. However, when it has its head down feeding, which is most of the time, it can be difficult to spot.

Often better to look for the two white wing bars when the heads are down.

In a small group of twenty birds it is not too difficult but when you have a couple of thousand spread out across the marsh it becomes a harder task. I have the greatest admiration for the birders we met there who were searching the flocks for a Black Brant and a Pale-bellied variety bird that had been reported as being there. It sounded like a long cold job.

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