June 2022

Twenty Sanderling were feeding along Gull Island on the 7th June which is quite late to be this far south and so perhaps they are non-breeders especially given their lack of breeding plumage. Two juvenile Spoonbills, including the Dutch-ringed bird, remained around Black Water and De L’Orne for the month.

Roe Deer on Gravelly Marsh

I was finally able to find some young Redshank chicks, there were three along the southern edge of Great Marsh. I first saw them on the 23rd and they looked a day or so old. The female Pochard started the month with four chicks and still had three by the month-end. Black Water is one of very few breeding sites for Pochard in Hampshire.

Pochard and three ducklings

Three Little Terns were regular company as we walked to the end of Gull Island on the 7th. They were clearly prospecting and landed several times near the end on a perfect sandy/shingle section. They also fed close by along the river. They may have failed elsewhere and were looking for somewhere else to try but unfortunately there was no subsequent sign of them, perhaps the roosting gulls deterred them.

With only 1 pair of Kestrels on the reserve it was great to see the young chicks being ringed. The nest inspection and ringing was done under the appropriate licenses and with consent from Natural England.

Kestrel chicks photo by Graham Giddens

A Green Sandpiper on the 25th seen flying low over Wigeon Fields was the first returning wader of the autumn.

An eventful month for the Little Ringed Plover pair. Having had their first nest attempt predated in late May, presumably by a Fox, by early June I was watching them on Great Marsh mating with the male displaying with a raised tail and then engaging in several flight displays before chest-burrowing several scrapes. What was probably the same pair were then seen on the Gins. I saw a bird clearly sitting here and with Adam guiding me in, under his schedule one licence, I was able to find the nest with three eggs.

Again, with Adam’s assistance a camera and a cage were placed around it which proved a wise move as a Fox was later photographed trying to dig under the cage to get at the eggs. The cage protection was bolstered with a pegged down wide fringe of chicken wire which the Little Ringed Plovers quickly accepted. The eggs are due to hatch in early July, fingers crossed (July edit – Four chicks hatched on the 2nd July and they were still feeding OK on the 10th. The water levels are dropping fast on the Gins and with the current heat wave the flood could well dry out. If this happens, hopefully, the adults already know where they will walk the chicks).

Remarkably 10 Little Ringed Plover were seen near the nest on the 23rd. The group included three fully flying juveniles. It is not clear whether these are birds on the move having bred elsewhere or if there is more than one pair breeding at Needs Ore. There were still four adults and two juveniles on the 25th.

juvenile Little Ringed Plover on Great Marsh

Gadwall bred again on Venner with at least two broods here and with 12 chicks still present at the month end. I saw another female with six smaller chicks at the start of the month on the road at the Reedy Ditch. Overall therefore at least three broods.

Gadwall with six chicks at Reedy Ditch

The Mute Swans appeared to have had their five cygnets predated. In late May I saw the family including four cygnets squaring up to a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on Venner South but over the subsequent few weeks the number of cygnets appeared to drop each time I saw them.

A group of eight Swallows were feeding over Venner in the rain on the 27th, they included six short-tailed juveniles. I think these may be from Mary Monts. The Swallows were joined by ten House Martins which also included several juvenile birds.

More successful Stonechat breeding with three juveniles at the Warden’s Hut and a second brood on LRP Beach near the beach hut. Also plenty of Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails and Reed Warblers seen carrying food or faecal sacs in various places around the reserve.

The Lapwing chicks that I saw newly hatched on Warren Shore subsequently moved to the splash near Mary Monts to feed up and on the 23rd I saw all three of them fully flying in the Wheatear Corner area. The only other success on the reserve appears to be the single chick on Gravelly West which also appears close to flying. Not a great return from twenty five breeding pairs. Our camera data suggests that Badgers and Foxes appear to be the main predators and so Adam has secured a budget to buy 10×100 metre electric fences to be used next year.

juvenile Lapwing on Gravelly Marsh West

At least four juvenile Little Grebe were seen from Venner and Pullen and the male Nightjar was heard churring at 10am on three occasions from the Gravelly Crossroads area.

juvenile Little Grebe on Venner

There’s been lots of Shelduck breeding activity with 4 or 5 broods located in the 2nd half of the month. Total ducklings probably around 20 individuals although it’s difficult to be precise as there is constant movement between Venner, De L’Orne and Black Water. When they’re showing distantly on De L’Orne Scrape the young can look surprisingly Avocet-like.

Shelduck duckling on Venner Island

The Avocets at Great Marsh are doing well so far with eight individuals getting to the flying stage, this is from around six pairs. There were also 2-4 smaller chicks present at the month end. De L’Orne was harder going even though twice as many pairs bred here. A group of roving Ravens were probably responsible for wiping out most of the chicks. At the month end there were three small chicks but nothing older than a few days. Our camera footage suggests that most eggs do hatch but subsequent observation suggests that Ravens and other avian predators take most of the chicks. It’s difficult to develop a strategy to deal with this.

juvenile Avocet on the Flight Pond

The two Oystercatcher chicks which hatched from underneath the boats at the Sailing Club were still around at the end of the month often seen feeding close by with the adults over on the adjacent saltmarsh.

Oystercatcher and juvenile

Another well advanced chick was seen through to the month end on LRP Beach. Graham and Ellie managed to ring it. As always the ringing was done under the appropriate licenses and with consent from Natural England.

Oystercatcher chick from LRP Beach photo by Graham Giddens

The Oystercatcher broods on De L’Orne Scrape were hit by avian predators mainly Ravens we think but also an opportunistic Black-headed Gull nesting close by which was caught on camera grabbing an Oystercatcher chick. There were two very small chicks who had just hatched on one of the small islands at the month end with another two adults sitting.

Two chicks hatched from the triangular groynes on Beach House Beach. I subsequently found it difficult to keep a track on these birds although the agitated reaction of the parents suggested one or both were still present at the month end. The two pairs on Venner Island weren’t successful and all the Oystercatcher nests along the spit were predated, probably a mix of Foxes, Gulls and Crows. Five large chicks is actually not a bad return given how long Oystercatchers live for but it would be good to increase this productivity and we are looking at how we can adapt cages to better protect them next year.

Ringed Plover mating at the Sailing Club

The Ringed Plover brood at the Sailing Club, the first to be protected by our cage and camera set ups, was still doing well at the month end with all four young birds now able to fly.

juvenile Ringed Plover at the Sailing Club
Three of the four juvenile Ringed Plover at the Sailing Club

The two chicks on LRP Beach were still around and the adult was still sitting at the western end of the reserve. Adam, Mike and Kate walked the spit on the 27th finding that all 4 caged Ringed Plover nests were doing well with clutches of eggs (4,4,4 and 3). Another new Ringed Plover nest was found on the walk at the end of Gull Island.

Common Blue Damselfly

Almost as though they were waiting for June the first male Azure Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly were on the wing on the 1st and then on the 7th the first Common Darter appeared near Gravelly Crossroads, a teneral individual with silvery wings.

Azure Damselfly

The first Ruddy Darter appeared next to Shore Hide on the 25th, a lovely male showing the deep red colouration, waisted abdomen and black legs.

Ruddy Darter at Shore Hide

These were the only dragonfly species seen in June as Hairy Dragonflies had already finished by the end of May and we are still waiting for the first Emperors and Black-tailed Skimmers.

Painted Lady

The first Meadow Browns appeared on the 4th feeding on Corky-fruited Water Dropwort on the Flooded Fields. There were up to 100 around the reserve within a week. Painted Ladies were in good numbers in a warm spell mid-month and Marbled Whites appeared from the 23rd looking for thistles. Small Skipper also merged that day, on brambles near Thrift Corner.

Marbled White at Shore Hide

Interesting moths caught during the month included White Colon which had not previously been seen anywhere in Hampshire since 2017!

White Colon

Also unusual with no more than 15 annual records in Hampshire were Anarsia spartiella, Lilac Beauty, Calybites phasianipennella, Silky Wainscot, Goat Moth, Shark, Hedya salicella, Obscure Wainscot, Blackneck, Scarce Merveille du Jour, Opostega salaciella, Platytes cerussella, Schoenibius gigantella and Rosy Wave. All 14 of these rarer moths are photographed and captioned below.

I managed to get another good recording of a potential Grey long-eared bat from Pullen Hide. The acoustic bat expert Jon Russ commented that, despite some overlap with Brown long-eared bat it certainly fits within the parameters and that it is a good candidate.

Grey long-eared bat

If I can narrow down the search and home in on a building then the next step is an emergence survey, with several people around it to locate the exit point(s). It does look like we have a small population of Grey long-eared bat on the reserve and DNA from droppings will clinch the ID.

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