On the 4th a Red Kite drifted over Bergerie Farm. Virtually all of my Red Kite sightings have been in the spring and so this was a little unusual. At the same time my first ever wintering Black-necked Grebe was spending the 4th and 5th off Mary Monts and a Gannet was also in the Solent on the 5th. Later that day at Park Farm a pair of Redpolls flew over calling.
One of the adult Peregrines was seen on the 5th on Gull Island but there have been no subsequent sightings of adult birds since then. A juvenile female Peregrine was subsequently seen most days. It may be that the recent failed breeding attempts and the presence of the White-tailed Eagles have persuaded the Peregrines to move on.
Three Velvet Scoter were found from the Sailing Club during our WeBS count on the 5th and the same group were seen in a similar area on the 8th, the first Velvet Scoter record for two years. The wintering flock of Grey Plover totaled 209 on the 5th and included a single Golden Plover on 4th.
The undoubted highlight of the month was a flyover Lapland Bunting from the Sailing Club on the 8th. This is the fourth record for Needs Ore after one in 2012 and two in the 1960s. I didn’t see the bunting well but a sound recording enabled me to eliminate the very similar sounding Snow Bunting.
70 Redwing were feeding in Wigeon Fields on 11th but the only Fieldfare during December was one heard near the Beach Gorse on the same day. 21 Eider were offshore on the 11th and a Goshawk powered over the Reedy Ditch on the 11th.
The crop strip field attracts good numbers of finches and a Brambling was heard calling here on the morning of the 14th. Also in the Reedy Ditch area that day a Hawfinch was seen briefly over Black Water House and a Marsh Tit was also seen on the 14th calling from the Reedy Ditch Bushes.
A Shag showed really nicely fairly close in shore on the 20th. Compared to the much commoner Cormorants it was significantly blacker, with a shorter body above the water, a flash of yellow around the gape and a white chin. Nice to see it dive with an amazingly athletic leap before entering the water almost vertically.
One of the highlights of the month was a group of four adult and two first winter Russian White-fronted Geese which were seen on Middle Field with Canada Geese on the 20th. The four birds that over-wintered last year tended to associate with the Greylags. I first saw them on the 19th December 2020, a very similar arrival date. This year’s group of six quickly moved on and weren’t seen again.
Five Red-throated Divers were seen flying west and also settled on the sea on the 20th but there appear to be no wintering Great Northern Divers yet.
A group of six Barnacle Geese flew over Pullen on the 22nd and later that afternoon the first Pale-bellied Brent Goose of the winter was seen at Park Farm. What may well have been the same bird was seen on the 30th out on Inchmery Saltmarsh before flying past Mary Monts shortly afterwards.
Also on the 22nd a Common Scoter was on the sea and a single Golden Plover was with the Grey Plover flock. Cormorants leaving their roost in the Black Water area totaled 40 on Boxing Day while later that morning a female Goosander drifted east on the rising tide close in shore.
In the afternoon the wintering Lapwing flock peaked at just over 400 birds on De L’Orne Scrape and sharing the scrape were 71 Golden Plover, no doubt part of the wandering flock from Pennington. Also on Boxing Day, during a sunny interval, a Peacock butterfly showed briefly on Wheatear Corner.
Towards the end of the month 51 Black-tailed Godwit on De L’Orne Scrape was a good count and very similar to my previous highest winter count which was 52 on 17th December 2020 (Exbury Fields). Also on the 30th three Greenshank were seen together here, this is the first time I’ve seen more than two during any winter count (December and January).
Birds present all month included the wintering Avocet group which remained around the dozen mark often on the edge of the river south of the Yacht Club. This is a typical count and location for Avocet, there were 14 here in December last year. Numbers grew to 21 by early March, also feeding along the edge of the river. A further increase in numbers came in April with 37 on Great Marsh.
The two Cattle Egrets remained close to Park Farm and up to three Dartford Warblers were often seen or heard close to Mary Monts. Auks continued in good numbers with up to seven Razorbill and four Guillemot seen off shore.
The 1st winter Purple Sandpiper, only the second for Needs Ore, remained on Warren Shore throughout December often showing very closely for those that made the long walk.
The first winter female Scaup remained on Black Water and Venner although rather strangely she was seen on Inchmery Saltmarsh during a WeBS count on the 5th.
There were up to four Slavonian Grebes off shore during the month and the Spoonbill group totalled 14 adults splitting their time between Inchmery Saltmarsh and De L’Orne Scrape.