Just after leaving the car I came across a female Whitethroat returning to its nest with a bill full of insects. Along with Reed Warbler it’s one of the commoner breeding passerines on the reserve.
Whitethroat returning to the nest and juvenile Lesser Whitethroat
I haven’t heard any Lesser Whitethroats singing for a week or more but I saw a family group halfway down the hedge to the hides with at least two juveniles and with the adults tacking constantly. There are at least three pairs on the reserve.
On Venner there were good numbers of Gadwall again. I believe there are at least two breeding pairs with a minimum of 13 ducklings on Venner.
There were five Common Terns fishing off shore and another one was on the depth yardstick near the rafts on De L’Orne lagoon. 24 adult Avocets were on De L’Orne scrape, some appearing to be sitting on eggs, although there were only two chicks. Three of the Avocets were wearing yellow flags – AJ, VH and VI.
Graham confirmed that AJ was ringed on Great Marsh in May 2018. She then commuted between Titchfield Haven and Farlington before wintering in Poole Harbour. She spent her first summer on Pennington Marshes and was seen there again with chicks in the summer of 2020, this is interesting as she was only 2 years old at the time and Avocets normally become sexually mature at 3 years old. She was also seen sitting on eggs at Pennington in May earlier this year.
VH and VI are siblings and they were ringed together at Great Marsh in June 2019. Since then, VH spent the winter in Devon before returning to local Hampshire sites including my sighting at Titchfield Haven in August 2020. VI went missing until July 2020, when it also turned up at Titchfield Haven spending spring and summer there. At 2 years of age, these birds are sub-adults but next summer they will be mature enough to breed.
Black-headed Gull chicks fly at around 35 days and the first was on the wing today, such a difference from the semi precocial downy chicks.
On my first scan over Great Marsh there appeared to be no Avocet chicks. I also spent another 45 minutes looking for the Little Ringed Plover family without success. The significant rain fall overnight had topped up the water levels and the Little Ringed Plovers’ favoured area of exposed mud was now covered and so they had moved. Either that or the chicks had been predated. The complete lack of Avocet chicks also had me worried that an event, perhaps Fox related had occurred. Finally, with great relief, I found one of the adult Little Ringed Plover and the two chicks. The slightly more advanced of the two chicks was wing stretching regularly, I’m sure he can fly now.
After a thorough search I located three Avocet chicks and seven adults on Great Marsh. I came across a young chick flat down in the water and it wasn’t moving. Its bill was under the water and I assumed it was dead or dying. However, through the scope at 70x I could see its eye and that it was alive. Once the adult had stopped calling the chick waited another ten minutes and then suddenly stood up and started feeding. It was obviously fine and was just reacting to the adult alarm calls, it does make you realise how easy it is to undercount them.
The familiar call of Black-tailed Godwits had me looking upwards to see a flock of 16 heading over the marsh. Still too early for juvenile birds they were probably non breeders returning from Iceland. Soon afterwards a flock of seven Curlew headed east over the back of Great Marsh half way to the Reedy Ditch.
Patches of Bell Heather in amongst the gorse had attracted a male Silver-studded Blue, a patch tick and an unusual record for Needs Ore. The New Forest is a key area for Silver-studded Blue but few are recorded on the New Forest coast. A Small Copper was also nearby and a female teneral Common Darter was resting on the gorse.
I’d assumed that a newly emerged burnet moth was a Narrow-bordered five spot Burnet. However, the two middle spots are merging together which suggests that this is the rarer Five-spot Burnet Moth.
Back at Shore Hide ditch a female Emperor was ovipositing. A male appeared later and when the male and female came together the clashing of their wings sounded like a piece of paper caught in the blades of a spinning fan.
In front of Pullen hide there were at least four Black-tailed Skimmers buzzing each other and basking on hot rocks and dry vegetation warmed by the sun. The darker ‘bruise’ markings on the abdomen are probably the result of an earlier mating. A male Common Blue Damselfly was sat on a floating reed a few feet from the water’s edge, this is the first I’ve seen at Needs Ore. I attached an AudioMoth bat detector on the front of the hide to see if I can record Daubenton’s Bat which is a water lover, more on this later.
Early instar grasshoppers are now appearing although they take some identifying at this age.
While I was near the sluice gate a Little Ringed Plover flew overhead calling. I presume that this is one of the Great Marsh breeding pair although it is odd that I’ve now seen him four times around the De L’Orne area, a good mile from Great Marsh.
Sea Lavender was growing near the weather station and a Marbled White lifted up from the damp area near the Cottage Pines. At the Sailing Club two juvenile Stonechats were wing flicking and dashing around as though they wanted to be noticed. Single Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover chicks were crouching in the grass with their parents attentive nearby.