top of page
  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Farlington Marshes; Barnacle Geese and overwintering ducks, geese and waders. 29.11.21

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

This post is a photographic log of the birds that I saw, with little commentary - except for some words on the Barnacle Geese, which were a new life list bird for me, and a few notes, from other sources, on things of interest about Langstone Harbour's history and landscape. Sometimes I make mistakes with bird ID; let me know if I have got something wrong! I don't aim for great wildlife photography but to record what I see, so that I can use the photos to trigger and savour my memories of a great visit later; and to interest other people, hopefully encouraging readers to visit new places to them. All my photos are designed to be "record shots"; some turn out better than others photographically!

The images in this post alternate between birds on the reserve; birds in the harbour next to the reserve, and views from the reserve across Langstone Harbour. Rather than group the bird photos into species, I have presented the photos in the order which I noted things; my intention being to try and communicate the experience of being there, with birds located not just with a nature reserve but also within an harbour fringed by the industrialisation and urbanisation of Portsea and Havant. It is the contrast between the marshes, and Farlington/Havant and Portsea, that makes Farlington Marshes such an interesting location. Farlington Marshes feels like liminal space between urbanisation and 'wild' landscape; somewhat similar to he experience of visiting RSPB Rainham Marsh in the Thames Estuary; you may find my post Birding in the Thames Estuary on the site of a former Rifle Range: RSPB Rainham Marshes. 20.11.21 interesting - or you might not!

It was a perishingly cold day, and I choose to return to Farlington Marshes for this week's Monday bird outing, as I thought it would be interesting to see if the very cold weather in the UK and Europe had resulted in more unusual birds turning up at Farlington; they hadn't; but what was there was still magical.

These are the species that I saw: Oystercatchers. Black Headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Robbins, Redshanks, Grey Plovers, Lapwings, Dunlin, Black Tailed Godwits, Curlew, Barnacle Geese, Brent Geese, Canada Geese, Coots, Moorhens, Teal, Shelducks, Shovelers, Wigeon, Pintails, Mallards, a Red Breasted Merganser (or a Goosander), Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Stonechat, a Blackbird, a Great Tit, Carrion Crows, Magpies, a Meadow Pipit, and, as always, Wood Pigeons; and a brief appearance of a Peregrine Falcon (not photographed).

I walked from the bus stop in Walton Road, crossing the busy A27/A2020 junction roundabout, to the west entrance of the reserve, south of the A27. After walking a little way along the coast path that borders the marshes, I walked along the path by the Lake and Reed Bed to the coast path on the east side of the reserve. When I reached the coast path, I first walked to the far east end of the path, then walked all the coast path clockwise. Walking the path I took photographs looking into the marsh and looking out to the harbour. At dusk I re-walked the areas close to the west entrance, overlooking the top of Langstone Harbour

Mural in a carpark next to the bus station in Havant, where I took the bus 21 from Havant Station to Walton Road, Farlington.

Before entering the reserve (from the path to the west entrance)



Black Headed Gull

Brent Geese in the channel by the the Kendall Bros aggregates quay at the top of Langstone Harbour. For information about Brent Geese Migration see my post: Langstone Harbour & Hayling Island: Brent Geese 23.10.21


Inside the reserve

The Bushes


Mallard. The pool in which this Mallard was was completely frozen.

The Lake and Reed Bed

Pintails and other ducks standing on the ice

Lapwing and Teal

Teal and Pintails on the bank and Pintails on one leg on the ice


Pintails and Teal standing and walking on the ice

Female Wigeon foraging

Little Grebes

This Little Grebe is in the part of the Reed Bed that is not frozen


Little Egret

Pintails and Teal


Wood Pigeons

Great Tit; well hidden

Various gulls (Herring Gulls and Black Headed Gulls) and lots of Coots by the Reed Bed pool

Frozen Reed Beds



Canada Geese, a Moorhen and Black Tailed Godwits in flight

A female Blackbird

Black Tailed Godwits around the "white house" (Farlington Marshes information centre)

A Black-Tailed Godwit foraging - you can hear the roar of the nearby A27. So may beautiful birds so close to such a busy road!

Female Teal

Path past the Hay Field to the coast path


Curlew and Brent Geese

Brent Geese



Looking west from the path: Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth's waste incineration plant (2018 "Portsmouth's incinerator is facing claims it is exceeding pollution targets and not being monitored by those in charge, according to a report Incineration going '˜unchecked' as report highlights Portsmouth pollution | The News Extinction Rebellion take action September 2021 Extinction Rebellion 'blockade' Portsmouth incinerator run by Veolia with children's shoes and pushchairs | The News


Brent Geese

Barnacle Geese (probably feral rather than "wild" overwintering geese) - in amongst a flock of Canada Geese

Wild Barnacle Geese are found in the UK only in the winter (they nest in Greenland and Svalbard). They overwinter mostly in Scotland, northern England and Ireland. There are small numbers of feral birds that nest in the UK; considering there were only three Barnacle Geese at Farlington Marshes, and they were with Canada Geese, they are probably feral, and fairly stationary, like Canada Geese in the UK.

The barnacle goose is a medium-sized, sociable goose, with black head, neck and breast with creamy-white face. This contrasts with the white belly, blue-grey barred back and black tail. It flies in packs and long lines, with a noisy chorus of barking or yapping sounds

Population: UK breeding: 900 pairs; UK wintering: 58,000 from the Greenland breeding population, 33,000 from Svalbard in northern Russia and 3,000 from the feral UK populations Europe: >390,000 Barnacle Goose Facts | Branta Leucopsis - The RSPB

The black-and-white barnacle goose flies here for the 'warmer' winter from Greenland and Svalbard. This epic journey was once a mystery to people, who thought it hatched from the goose barnacle at sea! Wild birds are only found here in the winter. They nest in Greenland and Svalbard and spend the winter in Scotland, northern England and Ireland. Small numbers of feral birds nest on gravel pits and park lakes. Barnacle goose | The Wildlife Trusts

The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, and so are the environments of many plant and animal species. Populations die out in places that become intolerable, and thrive in other places that have become more benign.

But for many species, population growth in new places does not keep up with the decline elsewhere. For some species, such as polar bears, such benign places do not even exist. And even if they do, species still face a significant problem: they need to find them.

This problem is perhaps more serious for migratory animals, which have to adjust to not one, but several changing environments that they visit throughout the year. Even after finding a new habitat one year, they must find it again the next, and every year after that. How on earth do these creatures know where to go?

This question is not trivial: many migratory populations are declining. What seems to be killing them is their inability to adjust to multiple changing habitats at once. The problem might be that it is hard for them to learn new migratory habits.

Geese lead the way

But a few migratory species are thriving. Among them are barnacle geese, a small-sized goose that winters in Europe and traditionally breeds on the Arctic tundras of Siberia, Svalbard and Greenland. So, how are they doing so well? - see the weblink to read more: How barnacle geese adjust their migratory habits in the face of climate change (

Walking along the coast path, in circular direction (view over the marsh on one side and the Langstone Harbour mud on the other)


Canada Geese

Robins on the path - unusual to see two so close as they are very territorial

A nearly all white goose with Barnacle Goose and Canada Geese; it appears to have some shadow Canada Goose markings. It was in a the flock of Canada Geese with the Barnacle. Possibly a leucistic Canada Goose but probably a hybrid Canada Goose with Domestic (greylag) goose

A Little Egret

Baker's Island

... is an island in Langstone Harbour, Hampshire, England.[1] It is 400 m (1,300 ft) long and up to 300 m (980 ft) wide but only rises to a little over 2 m (7 ft) above Ordnance Datum.[2]Mesolithic and Neolithic flint work has been found on the island along with Bronze Age and Romano-British pottery.[2] There are a number of structures on the island including the remains of a flint walled building and five 5 by 1.5 m (16.4 by 4.9 ft) brick shelters believed to be part of a World War Two starfish decoy site.[2] In 1978 the island along with the other islands in Langstone Harbour was acquired by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds who turned it into a bird sanctuary.[3] Since that time unauthorised landings have been forbidden.[3] See Baker's Island - Wikipedia for detail of the citations cited

A Grey Plover

A Curlew

Curlew and Grey Plover

The white good above again!

Baker's Island from further down the path

Well-hidden Robbin

The Eastney (Portsea) end of the Hayling to Eastney Ferry (at the mouth of Langstone Harbour), from the path.



More Brent Geese

The white Goose and Canada Geese again!

Another Robin

A Rabbit and a Lapwing


Starlings near the Deeps.


The seawall path

The Main Marsh

A male Shoveler ?


Water-preserved tree stumps ? (possibly part of the Neolithic forest that can be seen at low tide Prehistoric Society - Past No. 34 (

A Curlew


Looking toward Portsea (west): Spinnaker Tower, aggregate boat and Brent Goose,

Ducks on the Deeps

Wigeon, Teal and a Shovelers on the Deeps

Nesting platforms on the Deeps; Spinnaker Tower in the background


The Deeps and the The Lake at dusk

Male Shovelers on the Deeps


Male Shoveler

Male Shovelers


Teal on the ice.

Male Shovelers

The following shots are a long way off; and attempt to capture 3 Red Breasted Mergansers, that two other birders had reported seeing. There are a variety of ducks and seabirds in these photos; including Red Breasted Mergansers, I think!

I think this is a Red Breasted Merganser (or possibly a Goosander)


Possibly a Red-Breasted Merganser being chased and harassed by a Shoveler ?

Cormorant and Black Headed Gull in flight.

Oystercatcher in Flight

Looking over to sailboarders on the banks of Portsea Island


The path (on a dyke)

Curlew and Moorhens on Point Field

A Lapwing on Point Field

Looking toward Portsea

Nesting platform (?) in Langstone Harbour

Carrion Crows on the path

A Brent Goose flying toward the radar station on Portsdown Hill

Bret Goose

Little Egret

A Curlew, possibly with an injured wing

A different Curlew in Langstone Harbour

Grey Heron

Looking inward to the marshes

a Grey Heron with Mallards

Pintails (some of these photos were electronically brightened with Google Photos because they were shot in very low light conditions, at dusk)

Another Redshank

Pintails - at dusk (unbrightened)

A Carrion Crow presumably eating molluscs and crustacea in the seaweed.

The waste incinerator at dusk with various ducks in the foreground



The scrap metal yard and Brent Geese

Fort Nelson directly on Portsdown behind (north) Farlington Marsh, 1860

The same Mallard as before; his pond is still frozen

Female Blackbird

The tower of one of the WWII Operation Starfish buildings

One of the Starfish, sites as they were known, was designed to protect Portsmouth. A series of fires would be lit across Farlington Marshes, parts of Hayling Island and on the small islands in Langstone Harbour to give the impression that here was a city under attack. Other structures were lit which looked like light was coming from chinks in blackout curtains that were supposed to keep the city dark. Most of the fires were oil-fuelled and all were ignited from a central Starfish control point. This worked amazingly well on the night of 17th and 18th April 1941 when 200 bombs that were intended for Portsmouth were dropped in this decoy area instead. A History of Farlington Marshes | Solent Reserves Blog (

Waste incinerator

Interestingly-shaped discarded metal object; part of a ship?

Industrial quay in Langstone Harbour directly opposite Farlington Marshes (Kendal Bros aggregates)

Brent Geese at twilight.

The Spinnaker Tower from Farlington Marshes at dusk

A Meadow Pipit in the grass next to the coastal path, near the west entrance

Brent Geese tucking into Eelgrass - their preferred food during the nonbreeding season

And as I was just about to leave I saw an Avocet in the Lake

This Schedule 1 species is the emblem of the RSPB and symbolises the bird protection movement in the UK more than any other species. Its return in the 1940s and subsequent increase in numbers represents one of the most successful conservation and protection projects. Avocet Bird Facts | Recurvirostra Avosetta - The RSPB

And the very last bird I saw was in the reserve was this ice-skating Moorhen.

It made me chuckle, as it reminded me of the Reverend Robert Walker (1755 - 1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch by Sir Henry Raeburn; painted 1796; National Galleries of Scotland.

Walking back to the pedestrian crossings across the A27/A2020 junction, as the sun was setting, I saw these glorious Brent Geese, most munching eelgrass; a beautiful Grey Heron; a very determined-looking Redshank, and a Curlew in flight.

Another great day at Farlington Marshes.



bottom of page