A run of cold northerly winds continued to slow up the arrival of new migrants. By this time last year I had seen Sand Martin, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and House Martin, none of these so far this year.
Small groups of Eider were moving back and forth on the sea, a female Red-breasted Merganser was still around as were small groups of Dunlin but other than Mediterranean Gulls and Black-headed Gulls there was very little spring passage on the sea. On the WeBS count there were impressive numbers of Mediterranean Gulls (298) almost all adults gathering in their normal spot south east of Inchmery Quay.
A Brown Hare trotted towards me near Mary Monts and allowed some photos as it headed away. You can see the rufous colour, long legs, black-tipped ears and also the tail held low unlike the Rabbit which holds it up flashing the white more obviously.
On the Breeding Bird Transect I walked along Gravelly Marsh to the Flight Pond and just like a week ago there was a Green Sandpiper, this time a pair flew up away from me. I managed a distant photo as they landed on the far end of the Flight Pond. They are on their way to breed in Finland and Russia having spent the winter in southern Europe or possibly Africa.
The male Dartford Warbler was still singing in the same patch of gorse in the private areas. I also saw a singing male Dartford Warbler displaying in the gorse 200 yards to the east of there. He had flown in from further east and so if this is the same male he is having to venture further and further afield trying to find a female. At some stage he will give up if he’s not successful.
A few days later and after willing the singing Dartford Warbler to find a female he did finally find another Dartford Warbler but unfortunately the new bird was also a male and also a ringed male. They sparred with each other. Graham had ringed two males in the autumn and this is no doubt the same two males.
For two consecutive visits to the private area around Great Marsh there had been no sign of the Little Ringed Plover pair. It’s still early in the season and so I assumed that they had gone to check out other possible sites, last year we didn’t find the nest until the 9th May. At the end of the week, however, I was delighted to relocate them feeding on Great Marsh.
I watched them feeding for a few minutes and then doubled back so as not to disturb them, soon afterwards I heard them calling and when I got back to the shingle I noticed that they had dropped in very close to where they bred last year. The male started displaying and they soon mated and the female started sitting, a few seconds later they changed places. Over the next hour or so they moved away from this area to feed. As they didn’t return to the marsh I decided not to investigate the nest site especially as it seems that they are early in the process.
Mediterranean Gulls are moving through the reserve in goods numbers and they often settle on Great Marsh where they were nicely front lit.
On the private side of the Park Shore fence the confiding Purple Sandpiper was associating with Turnstones. It seems likely to be heading back to Norway or Iceland soon while the Turnstones will be heading back to the Scandinavian coast. When I walked back to the groynes later in the week there were 59 Turnstone together but no sign of the Purple Sandpiper.
As it was a little warmer towards the end of the week I tried out a new Emperor Moth pheromone lure. People have had good success with these in other places this spring. Emperors Moths are fairly common in the New Forest but difficult to see well as they always seem to be dashing off somewhere. I attached the pheromone-impregnated rubber bung to my tripod and stood upwind of several decent areas of heather and gorse but unfortunately no luck today.
I finally had a Merlin for the year, a large looking female dashed out across in front of me when I was at Wheatear Corner and then landed on the up-turned tree roots on the shingle ridge. Once the clouds covered the sun the heat haze softened slightly and I could get a record shot. She will be heading north soon to breed on the moors in Wales, Northern England or Scotland.
The pale phase Buzzard appeared again looking nicely backlit.
Two Sandwich Terns were patrolling the river and one of them showed dark primary coverts which made me wonder if it was a 1st summer bird. This would be unusual as the vast majority of terns (including Sandwich Terns) remain in their winter quarters (including Gambia and Senegal) during their first summer. Having spoken to Graham, I think that this may be an adult which has, unusually, retained several dark primary coverts, the rest of the wing looked clean and the tail was all white.
I watched a Linnet bringing back nesting material to a gorse bush near the Warden’s Hut. I didn’t investigate further at this stage as it’s easy for them to abandon during nest building. Later in the week I spent some time with Graham who helped me assess the birds behaviour in order to find Linnet nests without causing any stress for the birds. We found a definite nest site but watched from a distance.
Along the spit near the Warden’s Hut new flowers included Danish Scurvygrass and Sea Campion.
A Whimbrel called from near the Sailing Club and I picked it up heading west along Warren Shore, this is four days earlier than last year. New Butterflies for the year included Brimstone and Speckled Wood.
My first Wheatear of the year was on the 3rd April in Three Fields South. Last year I recorded 12 bird days in the spring (starting on the 28th March) and 50 bird days in the autumn. I think this is still the only Wheatear seen by anyone at Needs Ore!
As I got back to the car a Red Kite drifted over the Main Hedge and a White-tailed Eagle flew over really high, the first one I’ve seen for a while. At the end of the week I saw another Red Kite at the Reedy Ditch. It was deliberately dropping a prey item, bird carrion I think, from a good height so that it could practice swooping, it actually looked like it was having fun.
Nearby, the female Kestrel was perched in the Bee-eater trees. Although it’s a large area I think there is only one breeding pair of Kestrel at Needs Ore. They breed near Black Water House and the female is often nearby as I drive past. She may well be on eggs now as she rarely ventures far but the male is seen regularly all over the reserve finding food to bring back to her.
The drake Garganey showed even better today straight out from De L’Orne hide. It would be great if there is a female hidden away somewhere on the reserve. He has been here for three weeks now and I’ve heard him calling several times.
I also saw a pair of Garganey at Mary Monts on March 30th although they seemed to be newly arrived and quickly moved on. By the end of the week our single male was looking a bit forlorn on De L’Orne Flood viewable from the Boardwalk Bridge. A Siskin called overhead as I walked the boardwalk.
The newer of the two Spotted Redshank was still on De L’Orne Lagoon feeding along the creek opposite the hide and the rather drab looking 2nd calendar year Spoonbill was still on Venner, all of the adult birds seem to have left, some of them probably back to Holland.
Across the whole reserve my Breeding Transect walk suggested that there were 12 Redshank pairs/territories and 24 Lapwing pairs/territories. This included three Lapwing nests found with four eggs in each of them. Strangely the two sitting Lapwing previously seen on Three Fields South had disappeared, no Lapwing at all in these fields.