There’s something incredibly enjoyable about taking a walk around the Farlington Marshes reserve on the outskirt of Portsmouth, passing the ever-present groups of geriatric bird watchers huddled around their scopes pointed at a gathering of reeds, casually remarking "isn’t that a Pallid Swift?", and then watching the ensuing frantic swivelling of heads and bodies that follows accompanied by the hilarious sounds of arthritic popping.
Still, when I’m not having fun at the expense of the elderly I can also enjoy the genuine beauty and abundance of wildlife that is present in and around the marshes, some of which I thought I’d share with you now.
I’m no ornithologist so I might be wrong but I don’t really see much difference between Marsh Ducks and Regular Ducks. Maybe the one on the right has slightly browner plumage. Ducks have plumage, don’t they? Or do they have gills? I couldn’t tell if these ones had gills because I was far away and there was a fence in the way and long grass which is where hippos hide. Hippos are very dangerous but there aren’t any in Farlington Marshes to the best of my knowledge. But my knowledge about Marsh Hippos is also limited so I didn’t want to risk a traipse through the undergrowth.
"It’s white," I told my wife, looking through the camera at full zoom. "Bigger than a small owl and it’s not a gull because I’m fairly confident it doesn’t have an ice cream or a bag of chips in its mouth. It’s kind of like a stork or a pelican that’s been bleached,” I continued, relaying an accurate description of what I could see.
"Egret," she replied.
"Well, there’s no need for that!" I exclaimed and we didn’t talk for the rest of the circuit around the marshes.
Western Goldwing Ibis
One of the rarest birds I’ve spotted so it was quite an exciting moment to actually capture it first on camera and then in the nearby tree snare. Lightly seasoned with lemon garlic granules, cooked slowly over an open fire, and served with roast potatoes the Ibis was a truly pleasant way to anger the birdwatchers who trundled past wondering what all the squawking and smoke was.
I may not know my birds but I do know my caterpillars and these aren’t mine. But I can tell you that they are Flat-Cap Caterpillars, named obviously for their beautiful upper head markings that resemble the flat caps popular with northerners. The black specks you can see around the cocoon are caterpillar eggs and not caviar; if you do make the mistake and eat the wrong one you’ll find it’s salty and fishy and nasty on the tongue. Stupid French people.
Grey Lucifer Rabbit
Hunted near to extinction these rabbits are now making a bit of a comeback in wetlands around Europe thanks mainly to a renewed sex drive and the proliferation of rabbit pornography on the internet. Named by medieval biologists (there probably were some) for their devilish look, modern zoological science has confirmed that these rabbits are all practising Christians.
Freshwater Blue Ring Octopus
According to the signs at the entrances there’s no accurate count of Freshwater Blue Ring Octopuses in the Farlington Marshes area but I can confirm there’s at least one and it appeared to be an aggressive female if the lipstick and tentacle gesture in my general direction is anything to go by seconds after this photo.
Red-Throated Swan And White Bengal Tiger
Thanks largely to my choice of clothing – cricket whites and a yellow-peaked baseball cap – I was able to get close to a Red-Throated Swan – more usually found in the warmer climes of the Sudan at this time of the year – and experience its mating dance and remarkable call of "Glibee! Glibee! Wang!" at first hand. I rejected it with jazz hands.
Later, after taking the pictures off my camera ready for uploading here I spotted the wonderfully-camouflaged White Bengal Tiger that had also been among the reeds. Quite remarkable.