Fishlake Meadows is an area of former farmland to the north of Romsey, which has developed over the last thirty years into one of the finest wetlands in Hampshire, with large areas of reedbeds, pools and wet fen. Recent years have seen the construction of new viewing areas as the Hampshire Wildlife Trust have taken on management of the site. There are further plans for a new visitor centre and tower hide.
The open water areas are home to good numbers of wildfowl throughout the year. Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Pochard are resident and breed in small numbers, but they are more numerous in winter when they are joined by Teal, Wigeon and occasionally Pintail. Garganey are regularly seen in spring, which is also the most likely time to see Shelduck on site. Little Grebes are resident whereas Great Crested Grebes primarily arrive in spring to breed.
Residents of the reedbeds include Water Rail, Cetti’s Warbler and Reed Bunting, but they are at their most vibrant in spring when large numbers of Reed and Sedge Warblers arrive to breed. This in turn attracts Cuckoos which can often be seen perching on the many dead trees that characterise the site. Grasshopper Warblers are also regularly heard across the meadows in spring. In winter Bitterns are regular visitor to the reedbeds, while large numbers of Starlings roost on site.
A few other species have become specialities of the site. Great White Egrets can now be seen throughout the year, often perched up on logs around the edges of the pools. Ospreys pass through in spring and autumn and regularly linger for several weeks at a time. Marsh Harriers are frequently seen gliding over the reedbeds, while Hobbies arrive in spring to hunt dragonflies and hirundines.
The site is not particularly known as a place to see passage migrants, however spring and autumn often produce large gatherings of hirundines, while the occasional Common and Green Sandpiper can be seen around the pools. An impressive number of rarities have been found in recent years including Ferruginous Duck, Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Black Kite, Red-footed Falcon, Caspian Tern, Bluethroat, Siberian Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler and Little Bunting.
The main car park, open 8am-6pm, is in the Oxlease Meadows housing estate, accessed off Fishlake Meadows Road near the junction with Cupernham Lane. Alternatively parking is available in two laybys on Cupernham Lane, from where it is a short walk west through the woods to reach the canal path. The viewing screens area can be accessed by heading west along the ‘east-west’ path at the junction with the canal path, and then turning south down the permissive path towards the screens. There are two further viewpoints along the canal path. There is also an unofficial viewing area amongst the trees at the south end of the site by Fishlake Meadows Road, from where one can overlook the southern pool.
Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – Fishlake Meadows
Fishlake Meadows Bird List (pdf) – Lester, A. and Thelwell, D. (2015) The Birds of Fishlake Meadows 1990-2015