The far carrying ‘curlee’ call of a pair of Curlew greeted me as I got out of the car. I saw another six Curlew during the rest of the day, eight is the most I’ve seen since early spring and no doubt signals the return of some failed breeders, perhaps from the New Forest.
A juvenile Oystercatcher was also resting with its parents out on the saltmarsh from Shore Hide. There were also New Forest Ponies on the beach which isn’t ideal for ground nesting birds. The ponies gain access through fallen fences or at low tide getting around the wooden groynes at Park Shore although this should be more difficult now that the groynes have been replaced.
On my walk to Great Marsh it was nice to see fledgling Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats.
juvenile Chiffchaff and juvenile Whitethroat
There were six young Lapwing on Gravelly Marsh, one flying already and another two not far behind. I have seen a Fox here and several Herons but this appears to be the safest environment on the reserve or at least the place where Lapwing chicks have survived the best. I was also delighted to finally see a juvenile Redshank although it was well beyond the tiny chick stage and looked almost ready to fly.
The two Little Ringed Plover chicks were still present on Great Marsh feeding confidently although an adult bird was always within 10 yards, at one stage the adult charged down a Lapwing who had ventured too near. The chicks are 23 days old now and can fly at around 26 days so they’re nearly there. The adults will probably leave at the end of July and the juvenile birds perhaps two weeks later.
English Stonecrop was forming a carpet in the gaps between the gorse bushes near the Beach House.
English Stonecrop and Grey Heron
There were seven young Avocets on Great Marsh including one fully grown individual looking like an adult other than brown covert feathers. At the other end of the reserve, on De L’Orne scrape, there was only one Avocet chick. Avocet chicks rarely fledge from here due to predation from the Great Black-backed Gulls. Numbers at Great Marsh and De L’Orne are well down on last year.
A female Azure Damselfly was perched on brambles, females are far less evident than the much bluer males. There is a short black stripe on the side of the thorax (missing on Common Blue Damselfly) and there is no spine below segment eight (unlike Common Blue Damselfly). I’m still to see a Common Blue Damselfly at Needs Ore.
Blue-tailed Damselflies which appear to be the commonest damselfly on the reserve were showing well including several pairs in cop. A large patch of Scentless Mayweed was flowering just opposite the Viewing Gate.
Blue-tailed Damselfly and Scentless Mayweed
Highlight of the day was watching a juvenile Cuckoo perched on a dead tree at the back of Black Water. Our views were very distant at first although close enough to identify that it was being fed by a Reed Warbler. The ‘parent’ returned to its giant off spring every minute or so. I walked around to get a better view and thankfully the Cuckoo was still there. I haven’t seen or heard an adult Cuckoo for three weeks and so perhaps the adult birds have headed south already.
I was surprised to see the female Pochard accompanied by five chicks. Typical brood size is 8-10 chicks but this female has always had only three chicks with her previously. A brief stop in Black Water hide and a tiny Coot chick drifted out in front of us.
From the De L’Orne screen I noticed a wader arrive from the west, it appeared to land in the southern creek on the flooded fields. I wondered about Little Ringed Plover and when I walked around to view the area from the boardwalk bridge it was indeed a Little Ringed Plover. This was the third time I’ve seen one in this area. It was sitting on the shingle bar and also used a broken wing distraction when an Avocet approached too close. I’m not sure if this is one of the Great Marsh adults on a short day trip, another breeding attempt by the Great Marsh pair or whether this is the male looking to set up with another female. They do occasionally have a 2nd brood which females may start before the first brood has fledged. I popped back later for another look but could only see a Ringed Plover on the shingle.
Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) and Tufted Vetch
The patch of Tufted Vetch near the boardwalk attracted good numbers of Bombus terrestris workers and on the way back from the hides a Common Lizard slithered off the side of the path and a Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle had settled on a leaf along the hedgerow.
Common Lizard photo by Ian Williamson and Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle
A male Kestrel was carrying what looks like a vole, presumably back the 600m to the Dovecote at Black Water House where a pair have successfully raised chicks.
The ‘blinged up’ 23 year old Oystercatcher was in his normal position on one of the muddy islands in the creek south of the wardens hut.