May 21st to 27th 2022

A couple of our winter visiting ducks look set to spend the summer, a drake Teal and two drake Shoveler, all on Black Water. I saw my first Little Grebe chick on the 21st, getting a ride on Mum’s back along the reedy fringe of Black Water. My first juvenile Long-tailed Tits of the year were in a family party which appeared near Venner Hide, perhaps the most reliable location on the reserve for this species.

juvenile Long-tailed Tit

A Lesser Whitethroat was tacking near the Viewing Gate.

Lesser Whitethroat

Blue-tailed Damselflies are the commonest dragonfly on the reserve. If in doubt over the identification they show pale pterostigma and very short wings. This female is showing a pink tail.

female Blue-tailed Damselfly

Day flying moths include several Common Heaths on Great Marsh Scrub and the striking Mother Shipton near the Sluice Gate.

Mother Shipton

The male Little Ringed Plover remained on his own on the Gins while there has been no further sign of the breeding pair on Gravelly or Great Marsh. In warm weather I again saw several Painted Ladies but this one paused near the Sailing Club to nectar on some Thrift.

Painted Lady

I checked the bare area that we had briefly seen a churring Nightjar a few weeks ago. After scanning a few branches and logs I was amazed to find one. Three days later I noticed that it had returned to the same log. The white tail corners indicate that this is a male and probably the bird I had video’d churring earlier on in the month.

male Nightjar
male Nightjar

There were Hairy Dragonflies in three different places today. I’m seeing a lot more this year than last year when I only saw Hairy Dragonfly once.

Hairy Dragonfly

The three Lapwing chicks were still on Mary Monts. I think these are the three chicks that hatched on Warren Shore earlier in the week and the parents have walked them down to the water here to feed. The three Lapwing chicks on Gravelly Marsh were also still present.

Lapwing chick

Sadly that’s only six Lapwing chicks noted on the reserve and with little activity suggesting more Lapwing or Redshank chicks were hiding away or that eggs were about to hatch. I did see a flock of eight Lapwing together which is also a sign that some pairs may have given up.

Around 25 Lapwing pairs attempted to breed around the reserve and 0.6 chicks per pair is quoted as the required rate to maintain a population. That would be 15 chicks required to flying age and so we are well below this total currently. Lapwing live for around five years, breeding from age two and so they have some ability to have a bad year or two but not many consecutively. Although the predators are all natural (Foxes, Badgers and Crows) some are in unnatural numbers due to human activity and so Lapwing need help to achieve the required breeding success rates, this could include electric fences. Protective cages for Lapwing wouldn’t work as they flush vertically rather than scuttle away.

I noticed at least three different Pied Wagtail broods being fed by parents around the reserve. A family of Egyptian Geese swam across to Venner Island.

Egyptian Geese

A patch tick bumblebee appeared on Thrift Corner. Bombus jonellus (Heath Bumblebee) is not one of the common six bumblebees in the UK. Compared to the commoner Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) the thoracic stripe of jonellus is buff coloured rather than lemon yellow and the combs around the pollen basket are pale rather than dark. Also it is smaller than hortorum and the face is heart-shaped rather than the very long face of hortorum. The tongue is also much shorter than hortorum and so it feeds on shorter stemmed flowers like Thrift.

Bombus jonellus (Heath Bumblebee)

On Venner South a pair of Mute Swans were squaring up to a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls who were interested in the five cygnets.

Mute Swans and five cygnets

There were 30 Sanderling on Warren Shore early in the week with up to 10 on two subsequent visits. There was a mix of winter and summer plumaged birds, although it’s getting late some waders do arrive very late on their breeding grounds.  

The Meadow Pipits I had found on Gravelly have seemingly fledged as the nest was empty. Adults were calling nearby with food in their mouth but I didn’t see the fledglings, I’m sure they were hiding close by.

The first Black-headed Gull chicks have appeared with at least six on the platforms on the 24th and the same day a pair of Common Terns were perched on the posts on one of the rafts. At one stage even chasing off a Black-headed Gull before returning to the post.

Common Tern pair

On the 24th there were seven Avocet broods with 16+ chicks on De L’Orne and three broods with 11 chicks at Great Marsh, at least 27 chicks altogether.

Avocets

Now for the bad news.

No sign of the Lapwing chicks that Adam had seen previously on the Gins. A Grey Heron was in the same spot today and wasn’t being driven off. One of the Oystercatcher nests at the Sailing Club has been predated, a Carrion Crow took one egg and a Fox took the rest.

A walk along Warren Shore Spit to put protective cages around the Ringed Plover nests (which we had GPS tagged the previous week) brought particularly bad news. All nests were empty and almost certainly predated. There had been eight nests in total. Foxes, Crows and/or gulls are suspected.

I had seen 16 Avocet chicks on De L’Orne Scrape on the 24th but only two when I checked again on the evening of the 26th. It was 6:30pm and cool and so perhaps they were being brooded by the adults but I think it more likely that they have already been taken by gulls or corvids.  

If anyone sees any Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher or Avocet chicks then it would be great to hear about it, thank you.

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