Saturday 17th July 2021

The five young Swallows have fledged from their salubrious nest site in the roof of the toilet and they were hawking around Shore Hide first thing, you can see the short tail streamers at this age.

juvenile Swallow

On De L’Orne flood at least seven young Shelduck chicks remained and as soon as the family group saw me the adults took off and for the next 25 minutes they flew around in such huge circles that it initially seemed like they had abandoned.  


I haven’t seen any Avocets for a week but today there was a family group of 2 adults and 3 fully grown juveniles on De L’Orne scrape. As I hadn’t seen these juvenile birds before I’m sure they were raised elsewhere. I then noticed that one of the adult birds was colour ringed – Green/Blue-Blue/Yellow. Graham confirmed that this Avocet was ringed at Needs Ore in 2014 and successfully nested at Normandy Marsh this summer. It appears that, just like the Needs Ore birds, this family group vacated their breeding site in mid-July.   

Avocet family, 2 adults and 3 juveniles

Graham later told me that this family group was seen at Titchfield Haven a week later. Graham commented that Titchfield is a site where lots of Hampshire Avocets go to complete their annual moult, prior to the adults heading to favored wintering sites and the juveniles wandering further afield.

I haven’t noticed any Peregrines since their nest was washed out but there was one today charging up the Beaulieu River. More post breeding gatherings with 20 Lapwing dropping down on to the Gins. Dimitri noticed a Broad-bodied Chaser land in an oak tree at just above head height.

Broad-bodied Chaser

Above and behind the chaser and just below the tree top there were at least three Purple Hairstreaks and one of them descended slightly lower for a better photo, albeit still distant. Purple Hairstreaks spend most of their time in the tree tops sipping honeydew, a sugary sticky liquid secreted by aphids. They can be overlooked because of this habit but if you spend a while below an oak tree on a warm calm day in July you may well see occasional dark grey butterflies flitting around and spiralling together but rarely descending very far.

Purple Hairstreak

Half way along the hedge to the hides a female Common Darter landed right in front of us.

I use a 600mm lens (or 840mm with a converter) for all my wildlife photography including insects. There are several benefits, firstly you have a really good working distance and so can get good size images standing a long way back from the insect, this can be handy on hot days when insects are difficult to approach. Secondly the long focal length acts to blur the background nicely and thirdly the much narrower field of field means that you can easily change your angle slightly to removing distracting elements from the background.

female Common Darter

I noticed Stonechat juveniles at both the sluice gate and at the flight pond. Over the summer I’ve seen fledgling juvenile Stonechats from five different nests. I also counted my largest gathering of Linnets this year with 50 around the ringing area on Gravelly. Graham later ringed 14 juvenile Linnets in one session at the end of July confirming they’ve had a good year. Post breeding numbers build up to a peak in the autumn, I counted 100 near the point last September.

There were lots of dragonflies on the wing in very sunny conditions. Just where the track near Mary Monts house splits off to the private Gravelly Marsh areas I flushed a male Ruddy Darter but characteristically it returned to the same perch.

male Ruddy Darter

Not far from the Ruddy Darter I came across a pale brown adult grasshopper. The almost parallel pronotum, the pale colouration and the characteristic white line along the wing all indicated Lesser Marsh Grasshopper. One of our rarer grasshoppers this is amongst the best locations in the region for this species. I saw what I thought was an early instar a few days ago and so it was good to find a full adult resting nicely on an exposed leaf.

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper

In one of the bays around the edge of Great Marsh there were very good numbers of Black-tailed Skimmers, at least 30 and a much larger male Emperor was investigating them before landing briefly. The lack of spots on the abdomen and a black line running down the abdomen are features only shown by Emperors in the UK.

male Emperor

Although not so obvious as the male Black-tailed Skimmers I saw my first female Black-tailed Skimmer of the year along the bushes adjoining the flight pond.

female Black-tailed Skimmer

Perhaps the most vocal of the waders on Great Marsh were the three adult Greenshank who dashed about calling frequently. There have been 1 or 2 wintering Greenshank at Needs Ore but these three are probably all migrants. As I walked across the causeway at the eastern end of the flight pool I flushed two Green Sandpipers. They were silent but appeared to land 100 yards back along the splash. I doubled back but unfortunately couldn’t relocate them.

A newly arrived returning migrant bobbed excitedly on the far end of the scrape. Only my third Common Sandpiper at Needs Ore. This bird may be returning from Scotland, Wales or the north of England and it may winter along the south coast although most do head back to Africa.

One of the two juvenile Little Ringed Plover was associating with an adult Ringed Plover but I didn’t see the other juvenile or either of the adult birds. I counted four juvenile Redshanks. Compared to the adult birds their legs were yellower and the mantle and scapular feathers were neater and more uniform. I’ve spent months trying to find young redshank chicks with limited success and here were four fully grown individuals all together.

Particularly noticeable today were the large flocks of Starlings mainly juveniles which had gathered together and were charging around the reserve.


It was great to be buzzed by one of the UK’s largest insects, the Golden-ringed Dragonfly. They look surprisingly dark in flight although the yellow rings are just about visible as it dashes past. The female’s long ovipositor maker her the longest dragonfly in the UK.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly photo by Ian Williamson

Female Common Blue butterflies are usually brown with orange spots but they are variable and occasionally some individuals, like this one near the Pullen Hide, are much bluer.

female Common Blue

Other butterflies today included a Painted Lady, Small Copper, Peacock, several Marbled Whites and lots of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns. A very brief view of a small blue butterfly may well have been a Brown Argus but it disappeared before I could check it properly.

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