LANGSTONE HARBOUR WILDLIFE
There are literally thousands of wildlife species that live in, on and around Langstone Harbour.
Langstone Harbour’s birdlife is internationally celebrated and it ranks within the top 10 most important places for birds in the UK. During the winter months as many as 40,000 birds may be present in the Harbour, either roosting or feeding on the mudflats. Species regularly encountered include Shelduck, Dunlin, Plover, Godwit, Redshank and up to 6% of the world population of Brent Geese. In the summer months, the Harbour provides the most important breeding location on the south coast for gulls and terns. Hundreds of these birds build nests on the shingle ridges and islands in the Harbour making it one of the best places in Britain to view Mediterranean Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns, Sandwich Terns and also the rare Little Tern. Many species of bird that you might associate with more terrestrial habitats can be seen around the fringes of the Harbour and on its surrounding reserves. Birds of prey including Kestrels, Buzzards and Little Owls are frequently seen, as are many woodpeckers, warblers and wagtails. Langstone Harbour is also a great place for sightings of passage migrants. Most years sightings of Osprey are reported over Langstone Harbour, as well as Black Terns, Wheatear and even Spoonbills.
The Harbour provides one of only two haul out sites for the Solent population of Harbour Seals. The Solent population numbers approximately 25 individuals. A recent tagging project revealed some fascinating insights into the Solent’s seals, including the fact that they sometimes travel as far as Worthing to feed. There are also a couple of Grey Seals that occasionally visit Langstone. In partnership with Chichester Harbour Conservancy we have produced a Code of Conduct for Solent Seals which can be found here. In addition the UK Government has recently published some advice to people encountering seals at the coast which can be found here.Around the Harbour perimeter you might be lucky enough to spot Roe Deer, Water Voles and of course the occasional wily fox. Bottlenose Dolphins, Harbour Porpoise and Otters have also been spotted here on rare occasions.
Past studies have revealed that up to 58 different species of fish live in the waters of Langstone Harbour. In 2012 a survey of the Harbour’s fish community commenced as a joint venture between the Langstone Harbour Board, the sIFCA, the RSPB and the University of Portsmouth. A total of 28 species were caught during the first year of the survey, 2 of which were previously unrecorded in Langstone Harbour. Please visit the Fish Survey page to learn more. The Harbour is a designated Bass nursery, and also provides an important home for Mackerel, Bream, Herring and Sandeels.
Clinging to pontoon pilings and mooring chains beneath the waves are a wealth of strange and colourful invertebrates. Snakelocks anemones, Porcelain Crabs and Purse Sponges filter plankton from the water to survive, while prawns and whelks scavenge for carrion. Buried in the mud an amazing variety of worms and molluscs reside, including Ragworms, Lugworms, Cockles and Clams. These creatures are the food source for the Harbour’s bird and fish life. Reserves around the Harbour provide habitat for a huge variety of terrestrial invertebrates. Butterflies such as the Red Admiral and Gatekeeper are common sights, and many species of Dragonfly can also be seen swooping overhead.
Within Langstone Harbour’s sheltered waters a wide variety of algae grow. Bladderwrack, Sea Lettuce and Kelp are all commonly seen, as well as the alien species Japanese Wireweed. Langstone Harbour also provides a home for beds of Eelgrass. This rare marine flowering plant produces floating seeds and waterproof pollen, and is itself an important habitat for juvenile fish, and food source for Brent Geese. Around the margins of the harbour grow extensive areas of Atlantic Salt Marsh – pioneer flowering plants including Thrift and Glasswort that can tolerate immersion in salt water during high tide. Further ashore, Bee Orchids, and over 50 species of grass can be found around the harbour perimeter.
If you would like to find out more about the variety of animals and plants the harbour provides a home for, as well as something about their biology and behaviour, the Langstone Ark pages are a good place to start.
The Langstone Harbour Board works hard to ensure that the wildlife is protected. By being aware of byelaws and codes of conduct, Harbour users can help to ensure that the Harbour remains an enjoyable place for recreation, while being a sanctuary for wildlife.