A Grey Wagtail called as it flew overhead on Gravelly Marsh, my first since January.
I spent an excellent morning watching Graham and Tara ringing with mist nets. There was loads of insight into ageing and sexing birds by looking at moult contrast between feathers and the colour and wear of feather edgings. Also assessing fat reserves and the start of body moult by checking the birds undersides. Every species we ringed seemed to have a different strategy for dealing with moult and migration.
The undoubted highlight was a Nightjar caught before sunrise and a treat to see up close. Early on there were lots of Sedge Warblers and then Willow Warblers, also Reed Warblers and a re-trapped Garden Warbler that Graham had previously ringed in June 2019 when it was breeding in the scrub about 150m north of where we were sitting! A re-trapped Whitethroat had been ringed here on this exact same day last year when it was a juvenile, it’s easy to forget that it’s been to Africa in the meantime.
A control Sedge Warbler was originally ringed as a juvenile on 1st September 2018 at Belvide in Staffordshire. Assuming it wintered in somewhere like Senegal that’s well over 15,000 miles of travel since then. Other species caught included Bullfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch and Greenfinch but thankfully no Blue Tits as these are, apparently, a menace of a bird to hold.
On the walk back to the car I looked for Heath Bumblebee in the heather but instead found my first cuckoo bumblebee on the reserve, a Field Cuckoo-bee (Bombus campestris). They parasitise the nests of the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). The reserve misses some heath specialists like Keeled Skimmer and so perhaps Heath Bumblebee may be absent here although the coastal heather and gorse strip did produce a Silver-studded Blue a few weeks ago.
There are a lot more Migrant Hawkers around now and each time I hope that one might be a Southern Migrant Hawker but to identify one I really need them to perch, but they rarely do. Until then I’ll need to develop my photographing flying dragonflies technique. Common Darters were the commonest dragonfly and it was nice to be able to compare a young male with a mature male.
Common Darter mature male left and immature male
There was a Wheatear on the flooded fields shingle bar and two more on the beach from Wheatear Corner. The number of Shoveler on Venner was up again to eight and a Barnacle hybrid drifted into view with a group of Canada Geese. Compared to a genuine Barnacle Goose there was too much black in the face particularly on the lores and it also lacked the black demarcation between chest and the flanks which should be paler. Also it was a little too big overall and the bill slightly too large.
Bird of the day was a lovely Curlew Sandpiper, virtually the only wader on De L’Orne scrape. A striking moulting adult summer bird. I would have loved a better photo but the heat haze was awful. The adults arrive before the juveniles and amazing to think that this bird will have been in the Arctic tundra a few days ago.
Curlew Sandpiper distantly in the heat haze
On the beach at Mary Monts a Sanderling was picking through the high tide line with three Turnstones for company. A Green Sandpiper was in its favoured spot on the Flight Pond and a second bird was on De L’Orne lagoon later.
We met up with Philip Hack as a Hobby flew overhead towards Gravelly Marsh. I had previously mentioned the Curlew Sandpiper to Philip which he later saw and he reciprocated with news of a Little Stint also on the scrape at De L’Orne.
We dashed over and after a nervous ten minutes the stint appeared. It had been hiding behind the grass at the front of the scrape but thankfully walked across the gap and then disappeared again on the other side. It was probably hiding in this way when we were watching the Curlew Sandpiper earlier. The Little Stint was an adult bird lacking the juvenile tramlines, the juveniles follow later in September and October. The Hobby went over again at 4pm putting everything up and we didn’t see either of the waders again.
As I headed back to the car one of the Shore Hide toilet Swallows settled on the beach fence line and a Little Ringed Plover flew over the Shore Hide as I was writing up my sightings in the book.