September 2022

September is perhaps the busiest month of the year although my only Knot of the autumn so far were these four juveniles feeding quite close by on the Old Spit Outflow on the 2nd.

juvenile Knot

Ospreys were seen throughout the month, mainly in the Beaulieu River but also along Warren Shore. The peak count was three birds on the 3rd but more often than not it was a single bird sat on one of the dead trees on Inchmery, often with a fish.  Spotted Redshank numbers were good throughout September, starting with three on the 2nd and building to six by the 27th. September started with Black-tailed Godwit numbers in three figures on Venner but it dropped gradually during the month.

adult Black-tailed Godwit

Almost all of my Grey Wagtails are birds overhead giving their presence away with a harsh penetrating call. It was therefore nice to see four birds settled on the muddy fringe on Venner on the 4th.

Grey Wagtail

August’s long staying Wood Sandpiper remained on Venner until the 6th and the Ruff, also on Venner, left the same day.

Wood Sandpiper

At least one Common Sandpiper remained on Venner until the 6th while another one was seen along Warren Shore on the 9th. A juvenile Little Ringed Plover also remained on Venner until the 9th

White-tailed Eagle

Other than hirundines the Wheatear is one of the most visible of migrants. They were seen regularly throughout the month with a peak of 11 on the 9th, this included five near the Boardwalk Bridge and five along the Point Gorse Bushes.


Most Bar-tailed Godwits are seen on exposed mud along the estuary and so three on Great Marsh was slightly unusual on the 10th.

Bar-tailed Godwit

A late Willow Warbler perched up nicely halfway along the Main Hedge on the 11th. Redstart passage continued until the 11th with single birds seen on seven different dates. Also on the 11th there were 13 Yellow Wagtails in various parts of the reserve. I didn’t manage any photos this year as most birds were calling flyovers.


It was good to find two Dartford Warblers on Gravelly on the 11th. One or both of these two birds were then seen within a hundred yards of here on three subsequent dates.

Dartford Warbler

Graham managed to trap one of the two birds and although, in the field, I’d guessed they were first winter birds, possibly from this year’s successful breeding pair, in the hand Graham commented that “it was in wing moult and it had an amber iris. A juvenile would not be moulting its wing feathers and it would have a muddy brown iris. Therefore the Dartford we ringed this morning was an adult female”. A third Dartford Warbler was heard calling along the Shore Hide fence line on two dates in the last week of the month.

adult female Dartford Warbler photo by Graham Giddens

Interesting WeBS counts on the 11th included 120 Curlew on Inchmery Saltmarsh, 91 Black-tailed Godwit around Venner and 89 Oystercatchers also on the saltmarsh. Four Spoonbill were seen flying over De L’Orne Scrape and the first Grey Plover of the winter, a group of three, were on the saltmarsh. Also a Hobby on the 11th was my last of the autumn. The Marsh Harrier over Black Water looked like an adult male which augers well for breeding next year.

All my Tree Pipit encounters are heard only or occasionally a distant bird flying high overhead. On the 11th, however, a Tree Pipit called loudly and then landed in a hawthorn tree opposite me. I managed a few quick photos. The last of the autumn were three flying over Great Marsh Groynes on the 16th.

Tree Pipit

On Tuesday 13th I decided to head around to the south side of Pullen via Mary Monts to check the brambles and gorse. I walked slowly to the slightly barer clearing and a bird flew up to my left, it landed on an exposed branch and through the binoculars I was amazed to see that it was a Wryneck. This is the peak time of year and I’d always had in mind that this area looked good for Wryneck but it was still a shock to find one. Quickly it flew into a small hawthorn at the edge of the reeds and began preening for a few minutes. I managed to get some photos before it slipped out of the back of the tree and I didn’t see it again. A real birding highlight.


Green Sandpipers remained in the Black Water area throughout the month with a peak count of four on the 16th. My first Brent Goose of the autumn was a single bird flying west past Mary Monts on the 18th, my earliest record. A drake Eider also headed west the same day. A late Swift flying over the Flooded Fields on the 20th made me double take.


September is the peak month for Whinchat. The last was seen on the 20th along Kingfish Ditch with the peak being seven birds on the 10th. Blackcaps are resident but numbers are swelled with autumn migrants and they are a regular sight during September with nine birds being my peak on the 20th.


Greenshank were pretty vocal and present in good numbers throughout the month, the peak of 14 on the 20th was my highest ever count on the reserve.


A Barnacle Goose was associating with a Snow Goose x Canada hybrid at the back of Venner on the 22nd. Virtually all Barnacle Goose records here are from feral populations, this is only the sixth time I’ve seen a Barnacle Goose in the last two years and the first I’ve seen in 2022.

Barnacle Goose

On the 24th every bird I got on to seemed to be a migrant Stonechat, I’d estimate close to 50 birds across the reserve. There is often a good finch passage along the spit in October and a calling Siskin here on the 24th was my first since April. The same day my first Golden Plover of the winter was calling overhead near the Shore Hide.

Little Egret

While unsuccessfully trying to find a Spotted Crake at Pullen Hide I watched this Grey Heron with a large fish. For fifteen minutes it couldn’t decide if it could manage it and kept dropping it back into the shallows. Eventually it swallowed it down, pretty exhausting to watch.

Grey Heron

I found a juvenile Little Stint on De L’Orne Scrape on the 24th. I first saw it with a small group of Ringed Plover but it quickly walked away before flying off south. This is my fourth on the reserve.

I watched another Wood Sandpiper next to NFOC Islands on the 24th. It is two weeks since I last saw the August bird and so I’m certain this bird must be newly arrived. 

Wood Sandpiper

Spotted Flycatchers continued with a late juvenile (retained pale mantle feathers) seen near Gravelly Crossroads on the 24th.

juvenile Spotted Flycatcher

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling from the tallest tree in the Cottage back gardens on the 20th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Swallows (and a Sand Martin) photo by Dimitri Moore

It was very encouraging to see high number of hirundines passing through during the month. The approximately 350 House Martins feeding over the sea out from Mary Monts on the 24th was quite a spectacle. There was also a count of 400 Swallows on the 10th.

Swallow photo by Dimitri Moore

At this time of year checking the noisy Long-tailed Tit flocks is worth the time and usually means standing still and watching them all come past. Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, Chiffchaffs and my first Firecrest since May were all picked up this way. Hoping for a Yellow-browed Warbler at some stage!

Long-tailed Tit
Coal Tit
Marsh Tit

The first returning Rock Pipits were three birds at the Sailing Club on the 27th.

Rock Pipit

Nearby, this adult Herring Gull was in heavy primary moult spending most of the month on Sluice Gate Saltmarsh. On two occasions I watched it bringing in a crab to eat on the grass near the Sailing Club.

Herring Gull

As usual Sandwich Terns were hanging on and some will no doubt winter, three were fishing in the Beaulieu River on the 27th. Nearby, the wintering Kingfishers were seen along the water bodies and channels on the eastern side of the reserve.

Kingfisher photo by Dimitri Moore

A large movement of Meadow Pipits occurred on the 27th and included at least 150 individuals moving west past Mary Monts in a single flock.

Chiffchaffs were very common on several dates in the last ten days of the month, probably exceeding 40 individuals on at least two dates.


Other departing warblers included fairly late records of Lesser Whitethroat on Great Marsh on the 16th a Whitethroat on the 22nd and a Reed Warbler around Black Water on the 27th. The yellow soles to the feet and the pale-tipped primaries made me briefly wonder about Marsh Warbler. Marsh Warblers, however, are normally a colder greyer brown with more extensive white tips to the primaries and the tertials overlap the secondaries although in hand measurements are usually needed for safe identification.

Reed Warbler

Wintering dabbling ducks were returning by the month end and Venner seemed to be the favoured initial arrival spot. There were three figure numbers of Teal, 30-50 Wigeon with 10-20 Pintail and Shoveler.     

Sparrowhawks were seen regularly throughout the month often dashing low in ambush flights.

Sparrowhawk photo by Dimitri Moore

September is the peak month for Clouded Yellows and I saw them on eight occasions during the month. They were usually within a few meters of the sea often dashing past but occasionally stopping to nectar where they could find Thrift flowers.

Clouded Yellow

The extended flight period of the Common Blue includes a second brood which keeps them on the wing until October. This male was seen near Great Marsh on the 10th.

Common Blue

Other September butterflies included Small Copper, Small White, Red Admiral and Painted Lady.

There were a few Common Darter on the wing, they last long into the autumn but Migrant Hawker is the most abundant dragonfly at this time of the year although it’s usually the males you see.

female Migrant Hawker photo by Dimitri Moore

Moth numbers start to fall from September onwards although I did manage a new moth in September, Portland Ribbon Wave.

Portland Ribbon Wave

A group of five Sika Deer was an unexpected find near the Reedy Ditch layby on the 2nd. I wound the window down for a photo but they quickly disappeared into the reed bed. Brown Hares were more obliging.

Brown Hare

The regularly seen pale Common Seal was loafing in the sun on Inchmery on several occasions in the month.

Common Seal

While mist netting Graham caught this long-eared bat species. Nik Knight the County Recorder commented that it looks like a Brown long-eared bat as the tragus is relatively narrow, the thumbs are foreshortened and the colouration also seems to rule out Grey long-eared bat. 

Brown long-eared bat photo by Graham Giddens

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