Friday 23rd July 2021

I’m taking over a new WeBS sector (for more info on WeBS read here). My first count date is Sunday 25th July and so I decided to try a dummy run today timing it for similar tides to Sunday.

My sector will be number 6 which is the Beaulieu River. Ian is taking over sector 4. Rather than count sector 6 from the Sailing Club on the Needs Ore side this sector has always been counted from the other side, at Inchmery, as the high tide roost is nearer to the northern shoreline.

The six WeBS sectors on the Beaulieu Estuary

The previous WeBS counter had been doing this sector for 20 years and had built up a rapport with the local landowner, this had led to private access to the small boatyard at Inchmery Quay which provided a much better viewpoint over the Beaulieu River.

As we had no hand over and no knowledge of who the land owner was I expecting to have to find a different viewpoint and looking at maps there didn’t seem to be an obvious choice. As luck would have it, Dimitri’s Dad knew the land owner and so we were able to get the same permission including a place to park and the code for the padlocked gate. I met Dimitri on site and for the 90 minutes leading up to high tide we watched how the birds use the creeks and grassy islands as the water rises.

juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Highlights included 52 Curlew, 81 Oystercatcher and 95 Mediterranean Gulls. The gull roost included four juvenile Mediterranean Gulls, my first of the year. There were also three returning adult Common Gulls and one of the Peregrines sat menacingly out on the marsh.

Common Gull

Near the boatyard entrance gate I saw my first patch Ringlet and there were several Meadow Grasshoppers chirping in the long grass. After high tide we headed over to Needs Ore and to the hides.

Along the hedge to the hides we found a Ruddy Darter perched up and looking directly at us providing a great opportunity to see the black lines which run down each side of the frons, an identification separator from Common Darter. Ruddy Darter certainly seemed to be outnumbering Common Darter today.

male Ruddy Darter

It was nice to see a second, different juvenile Little Grebe on Black Water, slightly closer this time. This one looking much more like a winter adult. At Venner a Green Sandpiper was bobbing on the edge of the island but the next time we looked it had left, silently.

Green Sandpiper and juvenile Little Grebe

From the De L’Orne screen I could see 11 distant Greenshank in the direction of the Sluice Gate although at a distance of 350m the heat haze made the views pretty awful.

We headed back to the car for lunch where I noticed a Field Grasshopper near Shore Hide, you can clearly see the densely hairy underside. It also looks like the toilet will be out of action for a while longer as I found a second brood of 6 Swallow eggs in the roof of the cubicle!

Field Grasshopper

We then headed towards Mary Monts. There were lots of Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers near the Pullen kissing gate and a Meadow Grasshopper on a piece of wood showing the female’s very short wings.

female Meadow Grasshopper

It was also nice to get a slightly unusual angle on a Peacock.

Peacock

A Bombus terrestris was busy on a thistle getting covered in pollen. The long lens does a nice job of blurring the background. Another splash of purple was provided by the newly flowering Purple Loosestrife on the wet area near the kissing gate.

Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed Bumblebee) and Purple Loosestrife

I then headed off to the private areas around Gravelly Marsh. After the recent very hot weather the water levels were low on Great Marsh and there were few birds around. Adam is juggling water levels, now that birds have largely finished breeding, to ensure that contractors can get their machinery onto Black Water next month to create a scrape.

A bit of colour was provided by a bright and freshly emerged male Common Blue.

male Common Blue

Most hoverflies only have a scientific name but this one, Helophilus pendulus, is also called The Footballer due to its stripy thorax.

Helophilus pendulus
adult winter Greenshank

One of the highlights of the day was approaching the Sluice Gate to hear a fleeing Common Sandpiper and then to have close views of the 11 Greenshank I had seen previously from the De L’Orne screen. They all appeared to be adults with ten in breeding plumage and one already in winter plumage.

Greenshank

There were also six Little Egrets fishing right under the Sluice Gate. The Common Sandpiper was joined by a second bird and they both called in alarm and flew away on characteristic stiff wing beats.  

Common Sandpiper and Little Egret

The bare ground around the Sluice Gate was home to good numbers of jumping Mottled Grasshoppers, one of the smallest and most variable of our grasshoppers. They show deeply indented pronotum markings, out-turned and clubbed antennae and a colourful mottled appearance.

Mottled Grasshopper

Also nearby was a pink form of Meadow Grasshopper which was a bit easier to see in the grass.

pink form of Meadow Grasshopper

The Ringed Plover at the Sailing Club were flying around calling and chasing each other. Surely too late for another brood?

Ringed Plover

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