We continued in the run of northerly winds and so spring passage on the Solent was light although it was good to see a tight fishing flock of 50 Common Terns on the 20th including several who had settled on the sea. Other highlights included eight Common Scoter also heading east.
Common Tern numbers were a bit up and down. A sea watch one afternoon produced more than 100 Common Terns heading east (30+ per hour) but another sea watch in the morning in similar conditions produced only 15 (4 per hour).
The passage of Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit seemed a bit more consistent with counts of 50-70 of each species on two separate sea watches during the week. Many of the Bar-tailed Godwits are in summer plumage now and quite a lot of the Whimbrel flocks included a single Bar-tailed Godwit.
My first Little Terns of the year on the 27th were very distant, their amazingly rapid clockwork-toy flight action made identification easy despite the long range. On the same day a single Black-throated Diver headed east, there is a small spring passage of divers along the coast here, mainly Red-throated Divers and Black-throated Divers.
My first Gannet of the year on the 27th was a slight surprise and it came much closer than they normally do.
It was great to watch a Hobby flying all of the way across the Solent making landfall before heading over Shore Hide and then on towards Black Water.
The Little Ringed Plover pair continue to move between the muddy fringes and the shingle overthrow but have not selected a precise nest site yet, there are several bowl like impressions close to where they nested last year and I’ve seen them mating here several times.
The female Dartford Warbler was seen again this time in close proximity to one of the males. I think she may be paired up with the male whose territory is to the eastern side of Gravelly as opposed to the male who is nearer to Great Marsh.
There are around 50 Avocet across the reserve. The 35 Avocets on De L’Orne are now egg laying, early in the week 11 eggs were seen in 4 nests with at least three other newly made nests ready. There were 11 sitting birds by the end of the week. There are smaller numbers of Avocet on Great Marsh, around 15-20 with no nests evident yet. In previous years they have attempted to breed on De L’Orne before moving to Great Marsh, probably having failed due to predation from the De L’Orne Great Black-blacked Gulls.
The young Spoonbill was still splitting his time between Great Marsh, De L’Orne and Venner. His ring reveals that he is a Dutch bird.
Six Sand Martins headed east over the Flooded Fields while a single House Martin was over Venner. These are the only ones I’ve seen this spring. Swallow numbers are also still low in what appears to be a late spring for hirundines.
A family of two Egyptian Geese and six ducklings was on Venner Wigeon Fields and nearby Green-winged Orchids are starting to flower in Spring Meadow.
Butterflies included several Peacocks, Small Coppers, one or two Brimstones, a Holly Blue and lots of Speckled Woods.
My first Green Hairstreak of the year was on the Broom and Gorse bordering Gravelly Crossroads.
There are at least 15 nesting pairs of Meadow Pipit on the reserve and the parachuting display of the males is a common sight and sound at the moment.
A Red Kite flew up over the Flight Pond West field on the 21st and there was an obvious arrival of Lesser Whitethroats the same day with five singing males around the reserve. There are plenty of Reed Warblers now including this one with a richly varied song.
A male Sedge Warbler was singing at the northern end of the Gins. Greatly outnumbered by the 10 or more singing Reed Warblers it would be great if he finds a mate and breeds here.
On a very similar date to last year the first Lapwing chick was seen on the 21st. There was only one chick and so the rest of the brood may have been predated already.
Bad news from the five sample Lapwing nests we have been monitoring. Four have failed. Three were predated with four eggs in each of them, a Badger was suspected for two of them and a Fox for the third. A fourth was abandoned with 1 egg. Pretty depressing and shows you the incredible pressures ground nesting waders face.
Having found two possible Linnet nest locations I had a closer look and found both nests in the canopy of the gorse bushes. On Thursday both nests had one egg in each and by Sunday I could see that the females were incubating which they only do once they have a full clutch of 4 or 5 eggs. They should hatch around the 8th May which is around 2 weeks after the last egg was laid.
A highlight mid-week was seeing my first odonata of the year, a Hairy Dragonfly quartering near Great Marsh. Any hawker seen in spring and early summer is certain to be this species. This individual had shiny silvery wings indicating that it was newly emerged or teneral. Needs Ore is a key site for this uncommon species. I later watched another Hairy Dragonfly patrolling the ditch opposite the Shore Hide, it landed only once.
After a month hoping to attract a female it looks like the male Garganey has moved on.
The Stonechat nest I’ve been watching now has both adults returning with food items. When the parents had moved away to feed, Graham and I had a quick look and were delighted to see five chicks. They were 3-5 days old and a perfect age for Graham to ring them.
The nest inspection and ringing was done under the appropriate licenses and with consent from Natural England. This type of ringing gives us and the BTO good information on clutch and brood sizes and this year Graham, Ian and myself are surveying the Linnets and Stonechats across the reserve in order to gain a more complete picture of breeding numbers and fledging success. More on this later.
Only my third Wheatear of the spring gave me excellent views on Gravelly Beach.