Thursday 1st April 2021

I was meeting Adrian Bicker at Lepe at 10am to help him with his Nathusius Pipistrelle research. To give me a few hours at NO first I got there for sunrise. I headed over to the beach and it was clear that there were lots of newly arrived Linnets. It was also the lowest tide I’ve seen so far and there were 68 Mediterranean Gulls strung out along the shoreline. They were all adults other than a single 1st year bird, perhaps their breeding success wasn’t great last year or the younger birds were elsewhere. Along with increased numbers of Linnet I heard at least five Siskin overhead.

A Blackcap was singing opposite the gate near the NP hide and the two Wheatears which had been along the fence line had moved on. I scanned from the gate before the cattle field and noticed a distant raptor on the fence posts beyond JV hide. I switched to scope and was delighted to see it was a Red Kite. Heading around towards JV hide I managed closer views before it took to the air mobbed by crows. It spent the next few minutes quartering over the water meadows behind B Water. There has been a noticeable passage through Hampshire in late March and this is only the second one I’ve seen at NO.

Red Kite

Out from DL’O hide the Black-headed Gulls were showing interest in the rafts with 35 of them congregating in the area. 15 Avocets were feeding, broadly in pairs, on the lagoon and on DL’O scrape. One of the Avocets had colour rings which confirmed that Graham had ringed it at NO as a chick in July 2014. In its first year it made a tour of RSPB Reserves to the east, being seen at Pagham Harbour, Minsmere and Titchwell, before returning to Hampshire. It has returned to NO every summer and it has once been reported wintering in Poole Harbour in Dorset. The last sighting was in April last year when Graham saw it at NO.


There were at least 10 pairs of Lapwing in the fields either side of the walking trail hedge with several of them already incubating eggs.

An adult Great Black-backed Gull came over low down. In certain lights mantle colouration can be difficult to assess and unless size and bill shape is easy to judge it can be tricky to separate Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. A useful non mantle shade ID feature is the amount of white in the primary tips. Great Black-backed Gull has extensive white mirrors on both P9 and P10. Lesser Black-backed Gull has a very slim small white spot on P10 only.

incubating Lapwing, Great Black-backed Gull and Oystercatchers

I got back to the car at 9:15am and headed over to Lepe to meet Adrian. I am running three AudioMoths for him. I need to change the batteries, reset the AudioMoths and post Adrian the SD cards back every three weeks. We installed one at Lepe and two at NO, at the Warden’s Hut and on the beach fence-line. I’ve also ordered one for my own use and will move it around the reserve to see what other species we have. There has been very little bat monitoring here in the past.

Back at NO the first Swallow of the year drifted past me at S hide, always a thrill. There were at least five others during the afternoon with all of them heading east with some purpose. Presumably they cross over to Lepe and head inland at some stage after that.

first Swallow of the year

It was a particularly high spring tide and at least 47 Curlew were driven down the river to roost on G Island. A Peacock and Red Admiral were on the wing in sheltered sunny spots and a Spotted Redshank called in the distance.

Highlight of the day was a distant White-tailed Eagle which appeared over Inchmery being mobbed by a Buzzard, which it dwarfed. The eagle drifted over in the B Water direction perhaps over Buckler’s Hard and St Leonard’s Grange. Two Sandwich Terns were calling over the Wardens Hut as I tried to relocate the eagle.

White-tailed Eagle photos by Ian Williamson

To finish I headed back over to B Water. As I got to the hides junction a Reed Warbler jumped up into the bushes opposite. It quickly disappeared but started singing nearby. This is, by two weeks, the earliest Reed Warbler I’ve ever seen.

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