Wednesday 30th March 2022

Today was my first solo Breeding Bird Transect. I walked 7.5 miles across all areas of the reserve. By the end of 12 weekly visits I should be able to confirm breeding populations and success for the key species around the reserve including Lapwing, Redshank, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and Cetti’s Warbler. The separate Shoreline Breeding Survey surveys the Ringed Plover breeding population and also Oystercatcher and Peregrine success.    

I headed out across the private area around the Gins. I heard what I was sure was a Garganey calling and sure enough a few minutes later a drake drifted out into view. This is probably the same male that has been on De L’Orne Scrape and Lagoon and does seem pretty mobile.

drake Garganey

As I headed towards the houses just south of the Yacht Club I heard a Brambling calling from the trees but I couldn’t find it. It called again 10 minutes later and I managed to see it flying over towards Black Water. On the river the Peregrine pair were active and the young female came fairly close by.

juvenile female Peregrine

I spent a while in Venner Hide and was rewarded with excellent views of a juvenile Goshawk scattering ducks and geese as it powered over the top of the hide. I finished the circuit by heading back to the screen at De L’Orne and the drake Garganey was on show again, this time feeding happily close by.

drake Garganey

My initial thoughts are that there are 20-25 Lapwing territories and 10-15 Redshank territories but it’s difficult to be accurate especially this early in the season with some birds maybe not paired up yet, some winter visitors still to leave and lots of coming and going across the reserve.

There had been a small arrival of waders with two Spotted Redshank now on the scrape including a new bird which is starting to acquire some summer plumage. There were also two Greenshank.

Spotted Redshank

The remaining Dark-bellied Brents were gathered around the scrape with some of them on the grassy bank nearer to me. One of the Pale-bellied Brent Geese was here and I got some nice photos. Last year one of the Pale-bellied Brent Geese was also one of the last Brents to leave. The ‘hrota’ birds ought to be returning to Greenland to breed but I’d imagine that this individual will stay with the Dark-bellied Brents and so will likely head with them to northern Russia.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose

The breeding bird transect goes up through the private areas on Gravelly Marsh. A lovely newly arrived summer plumaged Greenshank had the flooded pool to itself. A little further ahead an unexpected Green Sandpiper suddenly picked up from the ditch and flew out of view towards the flight pond. It didn’t call and I couldn’t relocate it. This is my first spring record, all 28 of my Green Sandpiper sightings in 2021 (some may relate to the same bird) were in the autumn.

summer plumaged Greenshank

As I reached the end of the Flight Pond I was hoping that I might see the male Little Ringed Plover again. Even better, the female had now joined him.

Little Ringed Plover pair (female at the front)
female Little Ringed Plover

You can see that the female (above) has browner feathers in the ear coverts, a less obvious white crown band and the yellow eye ring isn’t so vivid.

male Little Ringed Plover

Last year I found the nest on the 9th May and given that the three chicks hatched on the 31st May the eggs were obviously newly laid when I found them, that could mean it was a second attempt, or perhaps they delayed for some reason.

singing male Dartford Warbler

Once I’d walked Great Marsh I headed back to the car via the area that a male Dartford Warbler has been singing. I found him again, it does appear that all the recent singing records relate to the same male with a ring on its right leg. I hope that there is an elusive female in the area.

male Dartford Warbler
male Dartford Warbler

I find that the pools around Mary Monts often attract birds that are newly arrived but don’t stay too long because of the relative disturbance of the site – it isn’t possible to give the pools a wide berth. I often visit here early in the day to see if anything has dropped in. On this morning I scanned the pools and the first bird I came across was a stunning male Garganey and with a female alongside. He was giving his dry rattling call, they were both alert and wary and I’m sure they were newly arrived. They took off before I could get a photo, wheeled around and headed off in the direction of Black Water.

I carried on past Mary Monts Pools to check Wheatear Corner, unfortunately still no Wheatear this year. A quick scan over the Solent produced a newly arrived Swallow making landfall, this is two days earlier than my first record last year. Behind me a Red Kite drifted over Pullen.

Red Kite

I scanned the distant fence posts and noticed something I couldn’t identify immediately. I switched to my scope and was delighted to see a Black Redstart drop down into the grass. I used the gorse as cover so that I could get much closer. A hundred yards later and I was within ‘good photograph’ range and I slowly rounded the final gorse bush, there was no sign.

I then spent 20 minutes searching and I was about to give up when I noticed it again still on fence posts but much closer to Shore Hide. I stalked it again and this time managed some good images. I think it may be a 1st summer male given the pale panel formed by whitish edges to the tertials and secondaries. This is only the second Black Redstart here in the last seven years.

Black Redstart

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