One of the first birds of the day was a distant Hobby perched on the beach fence line near Wheatear Corner. I had been walking down Warren Lane and so doubled back to walk the path along the fence for a closer view. Unfortunately the Hobby had flown before I could get any closer.
Having walked to the beach it was good to watch a Brown Hare dashing along the shingle.
On Gravelly Marsh there were two Lapwing chicks, an intermediate sized one and an almost fully grown one. A large flock of 36 Gadwall took off from Great Marsh as I approached. I could only find one of the juvenile Little Ringed Plover today although Adam later saw them both. A summer plumaged Greenshank at the back of the scrape was probably a returning migrant.
Halfway along the path to the hides a newly emerged Gatekeeper was new for the patch. Other butterflies today were a couple of Marbled Whites near the Weather Station, several Meadow Browns and a single Small Heath.
Soon after watching the Gatekeeper two waders flew over Three Fields East, they were silent but I could see they were my first Green Sandpipers of the year and a sign that autumn is on the way. On the flooded fields the single fully grown juvenile Avocet remained although now on its own. All of the 24 adult Avocets appear to have left the reserve and there was no sign of the three other chicks I saw with them last Sunday. It looks like just one juvenile was raised from the 12 or so pairs.
Avocets are relatively long-lived and they can afford to have poor breeding seasons. Bad years can be caused by predation from gulls, crows, herons and foxes but also from cold and wet weather at the wrong time, when the adults are on eggs or the chicks are very young. Disturbance also contributes as the adults constantly leave the eggs and they can cool.
I arrived at the viewing screen on Venner and raised my binoculars for a presumed Little Grebe which was drifting this side of the island, I was delighted to see that it was in fact a stunning summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe! The first I’ve seen in the summer anywhere in the UK. A lovely matt black head and neck, yellow ear covert whiskers and an incredible red eye.
I spoke to Keith Betton and he commented that “Black-necked Grebes are rarely seen in summer in Hampshire but have bred twice – in 1987 at Winchester Sewage Farm and in 2004 in the Avon Valley. Odd birds do occur in some summers and are presumably failed breeders from elsewhere – perhaps France. Gatherings of up to 30 are seen around the Somme Estuary in the summer – 220km from Needs Ore. The most recent mid-summer sightings have been of singles at Blashford Lakes in June/July 2017, and prior to that another on the coast between Hill Head and Hook-with-Warsash in June 2015”.
One of the Green Sandpipers had landed on Venner and showed distantly resting in the north-west corner. There have been eight or more Tufted Ducks on Venner all summer but until now no evidence of breeding, it was therefore great to see a female with seven dark brown chicks following.
Seven Shelduck chicks had followed their parents over from De L’Orne scrape along the flood, past the boardwalk bridge and onto Venner. There were still at least eight almost fully grown Gadwall ducklings. House Martins, Sand Martins, Swallows and Swift were all feeding over Venner and the Ravens which favour this area put in an appearance again.
At the sailing club a Whimbrel called and then landed on the edge of the now flooded creeks. There was a juvenile Oystercatcher near the sluice gate and another directly out from the sailing club.
The water’s edge and the islands created by the rising tide were covered in carpets of Sea Lavender, attracting bumblebees, this worker is probably Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris).
At the Point Bushes I flushed a passerine which flashed a red tail at me. Thankfully it perched up nicely and then showed really well on the log in front of the Warden’s Hut. Redstart is a patch tick and this bird was actually a young juvenile with the gape line still showing. Given the early date this will be one of the first dispersing birds in the county, they breed in the New Forest.
A Hobby dashed over Warren Lane as I was heading home.