March 12th to 19th 2022

A period of settled light southerly winds looked hopeful, the most obvious migrants were singing Chiffchaffs with at least six around the reserve.

Chiffchaff photo by Ian Williamson

At the Sailing Club I arrived to see the male Peregrine dashing up the river. I then noticed the 2nd calendar year female on a favourite fence post below Exbury. Later the two joined each other on Gull Island and displayed, high stepping and neck lowering within a few yards of each other.

The two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls were still in the river mouth, the darker bird with the small mirror on P9 and the paler bird with no mirror on P9 (see images from previous blog entry). A young gull came close to the Sailing Club with very dark secondaries and a very weak inner primary window. I initially wondered if this was a 2nd calendar year Lesser Black-backed Gull. However, reviewing the photos I think the chequered greater covert bar, the oak leaf pattered tertials and the very subtle primary window mean that this is within the normal range for Herring Gull. Olsen’s Gulls states that “there is large individual variation and some (mostly E Baltic Sea) may show…..almost uniform flight feathers (with much less window than expected)”

2nd calendar year Herring Gull with a weak primary window

I had given up hope of seeing any spring Dartford Warblers and so I was really pleased to see one on Gravelly Marsh with a ring on its right leg. I got an awful photo but thankfully Ian got an excellent one of the same male singing a few days later. Last year I saw a Dartford Warbler near here on the 18th April but there was no subsequent evidence of breeding and I didn’t hear any singing. Will be interesting to keep an eye on breeding activity this year.

singing male Dartford Warbler photo by Ian Williamson

There are at least four female type Marsh Harriers on the reserve, often around the Venner area, but only one definite male, the three year old below.

sub-adult male Marsh Harrier

Of the four female types there are three 2nd calendar year birds (hatched last summer). The shoulders on the bird below are fairly well marked but this is still a 2nd calendar year individual because of the buff tips to the primaries and secondaries, the buff coloured head and the chocolate coloured tail (not pale rufous).

2nd calendar year female Marsh Harrier

The other recent young Marsh Harriers include the missing primary feathered bird and the modestly marked individual, both photographed in the previous post.

Three Garganey had been found swimming on De L’Orne Scrape, a female and two stunning males. This is just two days earlier than the female which was found at Mary Monts last year. I headed over to De L’Orne and luckily the Garganey were still there although now resting with Shoveler and Wigeon on the bank at the back of the scrape. It’s a changing of the seasons with these newly arrived ducks from North Africa swapping over with winter visitors who are about to leave.

Garganey, two drakes and a duck

Black-headed Gulls were gathering and displaying around the nesting platforms on De L’Orne and twenty nine Avocets were on the Scrape. Also present here were five Redshank and one of the wintering Greenshank.

One of the Avocets was colour-ringed – Green/Blue, Blue/Lime (G/B-B/L). It was ringed at Needs Ore (at De L’Orne) as a chick in July 2014. In September 2014 it was seen at Cliffe Pools in Kent and then not recorded until May 2018 when it was seen at Orfordness in Suffolk. It is thought to have bred there and was also seen there in May 2019. In May 2020 it was also thought to have bred in Suffolk this time at Hollesley Marsh . I saw it again at Needs Ore in May 2021. Nearly eight years old is a good age for an Avocet, a typical lifespan is six years.

Eight year old Avocet photo by Ian Williamson

There were 12 Spoonbill resting on the edge of Venner South and later there were three on the river. A little later a fourth bird flew in to join them and I noticed its black primary tips, this is a 2nd calendar year bird.

Three adult and one 2nd calendar year (2nd from right) Spoonbills

Once it landed the black primary tips were hidden and so it was the lack of head plumes, the washed out pinkish bill and the lack of vivid red-orange throat patch which separated it from the adult birds.

Three adult and one 2nd calendar year (right bird) Spoonbills

The Avon Valley 2nd calendar year Redshank was still present in its favourite spot near the Sluice Gate. Compared to when I first photographed it in the autumn you can see that it has now grown new anchor-tipped adult scapular feathers. I imagine that it will be returning to the Avon soon, they often breed in their first summer – I later heard from Lizzie that this bird had indeed returned to the Avon Valley field that it had hatched in. She saw it on Monday morning, I had seen it at Needs Ore on Saturday afternoon. The BTO say that only 43% of Redshank survive their first winter.

colour-ringed Redshank now back at the Avon Valley

There were around 500 Brents on De L’Orne South and one of the Pale-bellied Brent Geese was with them. A pair of Red-breasted Merganser drifted off shore from Mary Monts and a single male Eider headed west. 

I’m hoping to catch a clear recording of Grey long-eared bats this summer and so I’ve set up five detectors around Black Water and the Gins. If I get enough possible recordings then the County Recorder will help with possible trapping. While on the Gins the Spotted Redshank showed nicely before flying back past me towards De L’Orne.

Heading back home via the Reedy Ditch a juvenile Goshawk caused anxiety amongst the Crows and Woodpigeons before it headed off back towards Stagg’s Wood. The same juvenile was photographed at the top of Park Lane by Simon a few days later. Close by the resident breeding Kestrels were calling and displaying near Black Water House.

juvenile Goshawk photo by Simon Colenutt

Ian had seen an Egyptian Goose pair with a single chick on the very early date of 18th March. I watched it feeding with its parents on Warren Flash. The Larsen Traps are now being set up and one was close by. Perhaps the Carrion Crows had already predated the rest of the brood.

Egyptian Geese pair with a single chick photo by Ian Williamson

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