The first sign of autumn is often the returning waders and Green Sandpiper is one of the earliest. After a late June individual there were three on the 10th July on Venner Island. Then several other birds around Venner and also several calling over Pullen during the rest of July.
The first Black-tailed Godwits were on De L’Orne Flood on the 3rd July all summer plumaged, presumably females returning first from Iceland. The males stay to finish the care of the juveniles. By the month end most of the adults were moving into winter plumage but no sign of the juveniles yet.
A Greenshank heard at Gravelly Marsh West in the first week of July was the first returning bird of the autumn with numbers building to six on De L’Orne Lagoon by the month end.
The first Spotted Redshank this autumn was a lovely summer plumaged adult on the 14th. There were three further sightings of Spotted Redshank during the rest of the month, all around Black Water.
2022 has been a long breeding season with early failures and good (if dry) weather meaning that birds have had second and third attempts. Eight Avocets fledged from Great Marsh and in mid-July they started wandering over to the De L’Orne area. Some late broods on De L’Orne Scrape meant that two have fledged here with another younger chick looking like it might become the third. Eleven in total would be a good result after last year’s single juvenile.
The Lapwing chick from Gravelly Marsh West was flying in the first week of July. As far I know only four Lapwing chicks fledged from the reserve this year.
The Oystercatchers on Beach House Beach fledged at least one chick although they were often difficult to see, it was usually the parents behaviour that indicated that there was a chick around. The chicks respond to the parents agitated calls by hiding in the groynes.
I saw two Redshank chicks on Great Marsh on the 2nd July and there was undoubtedly another unseen chick from another pair on the other side of the marsh. A fully grown chick looking a bit Wood Sandpiper-like was on the back of De L’Orne Lagoon on the 21st.
Little Grebe bred successfully on Venner, Black Water and Pullen with up to ten different chicks/juveniles seen including this pair of juveniles on Venner in the first half of July.
A pair of Common Terns were displaying, nest scraping and chasing off Black-headed Gulls from De L’Orne Lagoon early in the month before flying off over Black Water. They last bred here in 2019.
Adam found a Nightjar nest on the 18th with two chicks being brooded, I saw them briefly from my car on the 21st. Unfortunately it seems that they were predated in the days that followed.
In 2022 I spent a good deal of time watching the schedule one Little Ringed Plover pair.
A protective cage and camera were placed on their nest as soon as I found it in early June. The cage prevented an early demise with the camera catching the sinister sight of a Fox staring through the bars on 26th June.
The next morning the cage protection was bolstered with a pegged down wide fringe of chicken wire. All four eggs hatched on the 2nd July and the chicks were ringed under the appropriate licenses and with consent from Natural England.
The water on Gins East quickly dried up and it was all gone by the 15th July. This was before another blisteringly hot spell and so I was pleased to see them again on the 21st. All four had survived and at 19 days old were almost ready to fly. On the 26th July there was no sign, my guess is that the whole family had moved away to find some exposed mud. The reserve is clearly a stop off point for Little Ringed Plover as they begin their journey back to Africa. I saw up to seven other juvenile birds on various parts of the reserve during the month.
The Ringed Plover nest at the Sailing Club hatched three chicks on the 27th but unfortunately one of them was very badly deformed and the other two healthy chicks were predated within a day or so, probably by Gulls or Crows. Sad news but the second half of this season has been a success for the Ringed Plover mainly due to our new cage and camera system. More on this and a full summary of the breeding bird news will be published here and also in the autumn Newsletter due in early September.
In other news a pair of Marsh Tits opposite the entrance to Stagg’s Wood on the 28th July were my first ones of the year and a pair of Great White Egrets showed nicely on De L’Orne Lagoon on the 21st July being joined by a third bird on the 26th.
The three Pochard ducklings survived and grew to look like mum by the end of the month. Gadwall also did well again in 2022 with at least five broods were seen, mainly on Venner, with a maximum of 25 chicks.
On the 28th July a juvenile Redstart near the Cottages was a nice surprise flicking up from the gorse to reveal its red tail. I saw an early juvenile close to here last year as well, on the 11th July.
Sand Martins began to move through in the third week with approximately 75 feeding over Venner and then the Flooded Fields on the 21st July. Juvenile Swallows and House Martins were also seen over Venner mid-month.
The first Wheatear of the autumn was on De L’Orne Lagoon on the 26th and Spoonbill numbers grew to 10 by the 29th July.
July is a peak month for moths and Needs Ore produced some huge counts including plenty of moths only rarely recorded in the county. In July I ran traps on 12 nights and on the 16th I caught 951 moths of 167 different species. The following records were particularly noteworthy.
I caught four darts which looked good candidates for Coast Dart which would be the first records for the county if confirmed. Similarly a Eucosma aemulana would be the first adult ever recorded in the county although this may have needed dissection for 100% certainty on the identification. Two Ringed Borders at Sims Wood were the third county records and likely to be the first breeding records. A Crescent Striped was only the 4th in the last 14 years. There were no records in Hampshire last year of Epermenia aequidentellus or Euchromius ocellea and the following three species were recorded only once last year in Hampshire – Cosmopterix lienigiella, Gelechia sororculella and Crescent.
In addition to the above the following moths were recorded on fewer than five occasions in the county in 2020 – Acleris kochiella, Saltmarsh Plume, Anarsia spartiella, Small Clouded Brindle, Brown-veined Wainscot, Dingy Mocha, Goniodoma limoniella, Psoricoptera gibbosella, Olive Crescent and Balsam Carpet.
The first Silver-studded Blue was on the wing on the 2nd July and Purple Hairstreaks were flitting above Warren Lane’s short oaks on the same day.
Visiting Sims Wood on the 16th July provided three new butterfly species for me on the NNR – White Admiral, Essex Skipper (you can see the black undersides to the antennae in the photo below) and Silver-washed Fritillary. This sees my NNR butterfly list climb to 29.
The first Black-tailed Skimmer was seen in front of Pullen Hide on the 2nd and a Broad-bodied Chaser was perched near Black Water Hide on the 14th. Common Darters and Ruddy Darters were also seen in the month although I didn’t see any Emperor Dragonflies during July.
The dragonfly highlight of the month was undoubtedly a male Southern Migrant Hawker seen patrolling the ditch adjacent to the Shore Hide from the 21st July until to the end of the month at least. The brilliant blue eyes and blue abdomen (no brown) separate this from the far commoner Migrant Hawker which is on the reserve in large numbers from late July onwards.
This is exactly the same place as last year’s August male. It seems very likely that Southern Migrant Hawkers are breeding here, amazing given that they have only just colonised the south east. The ditch is totally dry now and so they may struggle this year. Southern Migrant Hawker is a univoltine species, that is to say it completes its life-cycle in one year and so this individual could well be the offspring of the male I saw last August.
Queen bumblebees at this time of the year switch egg production from workers to males/daughter queens and so this large female Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) may well become a queen with her own nest in due course.
July and August are the peak months for seeing grasshoppers. This is a Mottled Grasshopper showing the characteristic mottling and the pinched in pronotum markings (the cream-coloured lines on the back of the neck are squeezed in very sharply).
I placed my bat detector near Black Water House and all the common bats were recorded as well as the rarer Grey long-eared bat, Barbastelle and Leisler’s bat.