Farlington Marshes is a flagship Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust reserve and an important location, both internationally and within Langstone Harbour itself, for overwintering wildfowl and waders. It is also an important wader breeding site in the spring and hosts rare habitats such as coastal grazing marsh and salt marsh. It is an excellent place to visit on a high tide to see many wader species which roost in large numbers in the lakes and on the marsh.
Spring is the main breeding season for many of our birds. Early spring can see Lapwing and Redshank displaying across the main marsh with Avocets joining them around the water bodies such as the scrape a little later. Other waders such as Green and Common Sandpipers can be found on the stream and the ditches across the marsh, stopping briefly on their migration. Passerines are in good supply in the bushes. Lesser Whitethroats are reliable annual breeders and Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers are always spotted on migration. It is also a good time to see Bearded Tits, often down by the main building
Summer sees species such as Skylark and Meadow Pipit breed with abundance across the marsh and many of the breeding waders are still busy rearing young. Avocet can often be seen defending young chicks around the scrape. The reedbed will be alive with Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting song with the occasional rarity such as Savi’s Warbler turning up.
Autumn is a great time of year for Farlington, with many migratory species moving through. The lake can be an excellent place on a high tide to see species such as Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Spotted Redshank with rarer species such as Pectoral Sandpiper turning up annually. Wader numbers start to build steadily through October and into November with species such as Grey Plover peaking in this period.
Winter is the main season for the reserve with many of the key species having returned. The marsh itself plays host to several thousand grazing Brent Geese and Wigeon and the lake and stream are good places to count roosting waders such as Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank. Often the lake will be full of birds on a high spring tide. Winter often attracts birds of prey. Short-eared Owls can be found hunting in the point field and both Marsh Harriers and Merlin are frequent visitors over this time. Species such as Hen Harrier are also annual visitors
The western car park can be reached from the eastern Portsmouth A27 roundabout (signed for the A2030). The track leading to Farlington is a small lane between the A27 westbound exit and the A2030 exit leading to Portsmouth. For eastern access, park at the Broadmarsh Coastal Park and walk west along the coastal path. This car park is near the A27 Bedhampton exit. From the east, exit the A27 onto the A3(M). Take the first exit and follow signs for Broadmarsh Coastal Park. There are height barriers at the car park entrances. There are three main car parks leading to the entrance. The middle car park is the largest and only a short walk to the entrance.
Hilsea train station is 1.5 miles from the reserve with trains from Fareham and Porchester every 30 minutes. The 21 bus service runs from Portsmouth to Havant. The closest stop is by Farlington Sainsbury’s (north of the A27) which is a 15+ minute walk to the reserve.
Words by Chris Lycett, HIWWT Solent Reserves Officer
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – Farlington Marshes
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – Farlington Marshes map
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – Solent Reserves Blog