A miserable wet and windy day which brightened up a little in the afternoon. The highlight was the first returning Spotted Redshank on De L’Orne. I last saw one on the 1st April flying over De L’Orne calling ‘chew it’ with trailing legs extending beyond the tail. Today’s bird flew out of sight presumably to land on the De L’Orne Roosting Stones which are only visible, very distantly, from Two Bridges Gate or from the Sluice Gate. It was close to winter plumage with just a few black summer feathers on the underparts.
There were also five Greenshank here, I heard a Green Sandpiper calling nearby and a Wheatear was a slightly unusual sight on the scrape. An adult and juvenile Shelduck flew across to land on the lagoon in front of De L’Orne screen. I hadn’t seen this juvenile before, it’s a lot older than any of the chicks I’d seen previously.
There were five recently arrived Shoveler on Venner, my largest count since April. The powder blue forewings were obvious as they flew around from behind the island. A juvenile Hobby also flew across in front of the island before landing in one of the trees. I’ve seen adult Hobbies on six occasions this summer and I’d imagine this young bird is from a local nest on the estate.
The fully grown Pochard ducklings which were raised on Venner had moved to Pullen with the female. On Great Marsh a group of 10 Mediterranean Gulls were resting on the scrape and I saw a Green Sandpiper at the far end of the Flight Pool. It’s an apt location name as birds are often very flighty on this stretch of water. The Green Sandpiper didn’t flush but only because I was half expecting there to be one and kept myself hidden behind a gorse bush.
Gravelly Marsh has supported a good breeding population of Linnets this year and one particular juvenile bird was happy to watch me as I walked past.
Near the Shore Hide I came across a damselfly sheltering from the wind and rain. This is an immature female Blue-tailed Damselfly, they can have up to five colour forms and violacea is perhaps the most striking.
Trying to photograph the Sand Martins on Black Water was close to impossible. The camera just couldn’t focus and track quickly enough in the gloomy light with a 1.4x converter. These were the best two photos, nice to see that one of these birds is a juvenile with pale feather fringes, particularly noticeable on the tertials.
Sand Martins including juvenile bird on the left
Slightly easier to photograph was a young Moorhen on one of the posts near Black Water Hide. You can see the paler flank feathers which Moorhen show at all ages.
A Marsh Harrier dropped down below reed height. I believe that the pale and crisply edged greater coverts and primary coverts mean that this is a juvenile bird but ageing is slightly more complicated with Marsh Harriers. Looking back through earlier photos I can see that older birds also show these feather edges although perhaps not as crisply as on this bird. Juvenile birds tend to be darker without a paler breast patch (which this one appeared to have) and any paler areas are gingery as opposed to creamy.
I later spoke to Graham Giddens and he commented – “your Marsh Harrier photo shows a juvenile, which hatched this summer. The head is buffy (an older bird would have a whiter head), the tail tips are buffy and fresh (an older bird would totally lack the buffy tips and probably also show some wear), the wing feathers are all of the same age and all are tipped with buff (an older bird would have done some moult and show different ages of feathers within the wing, and none of the primaries or secondaries would have buff tips). It is unusually pale on the shoulders, most juvs are darker chocolate brown, but a few juvs do exhibit the female-type creamy shoulders”
A very young recently fledged Reed Warbler jumped into the reeds right next to me almost too close for my telephoto lens. They only grow a tail and primary feathers once they’ve fledged so that they can manoeuver in the nest. The adult bird was a little anxious nearby. I’ve seen a lot of 2nd brood Reed Warbler activity recently.
In the damp area near the pines a male Migrant Hawker settled on a patch of brambles. I tried four different routes to get closer but I had to give up and settle for the initial mid-distance view. The characteristic ‘golf tee’ shape is visible at the base of the abdomen. Migrant Hawkers breed in the south but also occur as an autumn migrant from the continent. Southern Migrant Hawker is much rarer but expanding its range and has occurred at Needs Ore, last year for example.
I heard but didn’t see a Common Sandpiper while at the Sluice Gate and nearby a fresh Painted Lady came around the corner at the Sluice Gate and settled on a thistle.
I managed to get closer than normal to an Oystercatcher by approaching from behind the wooden structure on the slipway at the point. This one still has the full black collar of summer plumage.