The 25 year old Oystercatcher who was ringed as an adult in 1999 returned to the Old Spit Channel early in the month. The Slavonian Grebes were last seen on 1st March, four of them.
The Avon Valley colour-ringed Redshank continued to winter on the saltmarsh near the Sluice Gate, now developing new anchor-tipped adult scapular feathers. It left on the 12th and Lizzie confirmed it was back on the field where it hatched on the 14th. Another colour-ringed Redshank was seen early in the month on the beach opposite Mary Monts. This Redshank was ringed as a juvenile on 11th September 2021 at Freiston on the Wash in Lincolnshire and this is the first sighting since ringing.
On De L’Orne a Kingfisher on 1st March was sat at the back of the lagoon. This is my latest winter sighting. They head up river to breed with birds returning again in August. From Venner Hide I counted 62 Black-tailed Godwit on Wigeon Fields 1st March. Summer plumaged birds bound for Iceland are coming through now.
There were large rafts of Eider off shore at the start of the month, groups of 25 and 15 with most of them head thrusting, wing flapping and bickering. 40 is my highest count here. A very distant Red-throated Diver headed east on the same day.
On the 1st a nicely marked littoralis Scandinavian Rock Pipit was flushed from the beach in front of the sea watching bush. I’d seen several Scandinavian birds at the Sailing Club on the 3rd November 2021, this is probably a bird that has wintered here and is now acquiring its summer colour. Rock Pipits encountered on saltmarsh (as opposed to rocky shores) are worth checking for the littoralis race.
Spring Red Kite passage began on the 6th and individuals were seen regularly throughout the month. Also on the 6th a 3rd winter argentatus Scandinavian Herring Gull flew over the Sluice Gate and then on past the Sailing Club. Identification has been discussed and confirmed with several gull experts on the continent.
It was great to finally see an adult Peregrine again on the 12th, over three months since my last sighting. He flew across in front of the Sailing Club and landed on the shingle just beyond the Warden’s Hut. The juvenile female Peregrine flew over and joined him, sitting within a few yards of him. They subsequently mated at least twice on Gull Island and spent the rest of the month displaying including driving off another male on the 26th.
On the WeBS count an impressive 400 Mediterranean Gulls were settled in the river mouth and on the muddy islands as the tide rose. Along with my count of 405 in late July these are the highest ever counts at Needs Ore. There was also a site high count (for me) of 38 Common Gulls which is the highest count by anyone for over three years.
The first singing Chiffchaff of the year was near the gate at Black Water on the 14th. A period of settled light southerly winds mid-month brought in lots more Chiffchaffs and after a long period of no sightings I was really pleased to see a ringed singing male Dartford Warbler on Gravelly Marsh with a ring on its right leg. This was the 12th and he was still present and singing at the month end.
The first Egyptian Goose chick was seen on the early date of 18th March.
Good numbers of Garganey arrived on the Hampshire Coast and there were three on De L’Orne Scrape on the 23rd, two males and female. One of these males remained until the month end and another pair appeared to be newly arrived at Mary Monts Pools on the 30th.
Black-headed Gulls were gathering and displaying around the nesting platforms on De L’Orne with 22 pairs on the 23rd. A Grey Wagtail called as it flew overhead on the 23rd near the Sluice Gate but I didn’t see it. Most of my records at Needs Ore seem to be autumn migrants with the odd winter record, this is my first spring record.
White Wagtail passage began on the 23rd with several birds on Droveway South. They are a passage migrant through Britain from early March to May. Most are heading to Greenland and Iceland and most of the Icelandic population of 50,000 pairs is believed to pass through the UK.
A pair of Black Swans was an unusual sight on Venner on the 23rd. They have become self-sustaining in the UK and are well established in the wild and so are likely to be officially added to the British Avifauna at some stage soon.
A young male Velvet Scoter spent most of the morning on the 26th drifting offshore straight out from the Shore Hide.
There have been up to six along the Hampshire Coast this winter and there have only ever been half a dozen recorded at Needs Ore including three birds together from the Sailing Club in early December 2021.
The male Little Ringed Plover returned on the 26th. Having left in August he probably wintered in Senegal before finding his way back to the same patch of shingle. Little Ringed Plover adults don’t usually leave their breeding areas together and so it is unlikely that they will have maintained their bond in their wintering quarters. Thankfully the female also found her way back and joined him on Great Marsh on the 30th.
A spell of warm weather towards the month end brought out lots of butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Peacock and Red Admiral. Lots of queen bumblebees were also nectaring on various blossoms, most of the ones I saw well were B. terrestris, Buff-tailed Bumblebee and also B. lucorum, White-tailed Bumblebee.
There were three pairs of both Pochard and Tufted Duck on Venner at the month end, both species bred here last year so it will be interesting to watch progress over the coming weeks.
At the month end a Brambling was calling around the houses near the Yacht Club before flying south over the Gins. An unexpected Green Sandpiper on the 30th was my first spring record, all 28 of my Green Sandpiper sightings in 2021 (some may relate to the same bird) were in the autumn. No Sand Martins or Wheatear in March but the first Swallow made landfall on the 30th.
Also on the 30th a 1st summer male Black Redstart was found along the fence posts between Shore Hide and Wheatear Corner. This is only the second Black Redstart here in the last seven years.
By the end of the month 20-25 Lapwing and 10-15 Redshank pairs appeared to have set up territories across Warren Farm. It’s difficult to be accurate with figures especially this early in the season as some birds may not have paired up yet and some winter visitors are still to leave.
Birds present throughout March included four female type Marsh Harriers around Venner. Three 2nd calendar year birds (hatched last summer) and a sub adult female. Also the three year old male Marsh Harrier which may be old enough to breed although we ought to have seen evidence of food passes and nest building by now.
Avocet numbers built up from 23 to 49 during March and the wintering Spotted Redshank spent March around De L’Orne Scrape and also the private area on Gins West. A second spring migrant showing some summer plumage joined it on De L’Orne Lagoon at the month end.
Spoonbill numbers dropped off to a maximum 12 by mid-month, they’d all been adults throughout the winter but a 2nd calendar year bird joined them on the 12th.
At least one Pale-bellied Brent Goose remained on Warren Farm and the river throughout the month.
Goshawks were seen displaying throughout the month, often close to Stagg’s Wood.
These are my own sightings. A review including everyone’s sightings as noted in the log book appears in the quarterly newsletter which is e-mailed to you. The next newsletter will be sent in early June covering the spring sightings from March-May. All newsletters are archived and can be downloaded from this website, see the newsletters header.