On the 6th May Ian and I attempted to break the day list record for Needs Ore which was previously 101 species. We spent well over 12 hours in the field and managed 104 species.
A real highlight was picking up an Osprey as it flew up the Beaulieu River, we were sea watching at the time from Mary Monts and so we were a mile away. Other interesting birds included Arctic Skua, Nightjar, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Common Sandpiper, Firecrest, Little Ringed Plover, Dartford Warbler and Red-throated Diver. The Nightjar was still churring at 4:45am and I managed a very short bit of video on the thermal camera.
Conspicuous misses included Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Eider, Common Scoter, Sanderling, Little Tern, Swift, Red-legged Partridge and Hobby.
After a gap in Wheatear sightings I saw a flurry of individuals with ten more birds, four at Wheatear Corner on separate days and further individuals at the Sailing Club on three occasions, Gull Island, Venner Island and Park Shore.
A Common Sandpiper on the groynes at LRP Beach was a surprise and what was probably a different bird was more than a mile away on Gins East a few hours later. This or another Common Sandpiper was then on one of the islands on Black Water on the 12th.
A Red-throated Diver heading west was a bonus early in the week and Gannets lingered off shore on a couple of dates at the end of the week.
The female Dartford Warbler was seen again, this time carrying what appeared to be either a faecal sac or a piece of egg shell. I couldn’t be sure given the distance but either way this would indicate chicks. I spent some time looking for them the next day but didn’t see or hear any activity which was surprising. At the end of the week, however, I saw the female again dropping into an area of bramble, immediately afterwards the male was seen carrying a caterpillar and I later saw the female carrying a faecal sac away. It’s great to confirm breeding again here, the first time in five years. Would be nice to find the nest but the pair have been almost totally silent since paring up which is unusual.
The Stonechat chicks fledged on the 7th May and we watched at least four of the five young birds being fed by the parents. I also watched a female Stonechat feeding chicks in Mary Mont’s garden.
After quite a few hours of sea watching this spring I finally caught up with a pale phase Arctic Skua heading east chasing a Common Tern. Three Little Terns headed west at the end of the week, these are birds that probably breed at Lymington. There are areas of suitable shingle on Warren Shore but no interest from the Little Terns.
On Great Marsh Avocet ‘AT’ has returned, it’s the first time it has been seen at Needs Ore since it was ringed here in June 2018. In June 2020 it was seen near Cherbourg in France and in July 2021 it was photographed with chicks at Titchfield Haven.
Avocet ‘VK’ was also present on De L’Orne nest scraping. It was ringed as a chick at Needs Ore in 2019 and so this is the first year that it may breed. It has only been seen once before, at Pennington in autumn 2019.
A quick check on the three Linnet nests I’ve found – the first had been predated probably by a small mammal, the second had very young chicks and the third had the female still incubating.
My first Swift of the year was seen coming in off the sea early in the week. As I walked the breeding bird transect over on Great Marsh a Hobby drifted over. My camera failed to focus but Dimitri saw what was probably the same bird later in the day.
An impressive total of five Sedge Warblers were singing around the reserve during the week.
A newly arrived drake Garganey was looking nervous on the 7th on Gins East. It soon flew off high with a female Teal and a female Gadwall. I later saw it again swimming around in the middle of Black Water, still looking skittish. This is the sixth different Garganey I’ve seen this spring. This new male wasn’t seen again.
Disappointing news was that the Little Ringed Plover nest appears to have been predated. The nest scrape was empty of eggs when I checked on the 6th May. We later saw the pair over on Gins East where they were sparring with another newly arrived male. The new male remained on Gins East for at least another 11 days, still looking for a female. The established pair became more elusive until I had great views on the 17th.
The male was very active nest scraping on a sandy section of the marsh near the water’s edge. He undertook four display flights while I was there and was contact calling and singing regularly. At first I couldn’t see the female and wondered if she had left or if this was a new male but she was there all along watching nearby. Will be brilliant if they try again.
There are now three young Spoonbills. The leg ring on one of these birds reveals that it was ringed as a juvenile in the Netherlands last September. It moved to northern France in late October before relocating to Poole Harbour where it spent the winter. It then moved to Needs Ore in April.
I’ve seen quite a few male Reed Buntings singing with no sign of the female, in these cases she is probably on eggs nearby. I will keep an eye on these territories for adults carrying insect food items in the next few days.
There were seven 7 Brown Hare on the Crop Strip field, my biggest concentration in one place. Hairy Dragonflies were on the wing most days when the sun was out, I saw at least two or three each day and several of them stopped for photos.
On Gravelly a lovely fresh Green Hairstreak looked great in soft overcast light. I saw at least ten others in sunny spells towards the end of the week all close to gorse bushes.
Another butterfly patch tick at the end of the week, Green-veined White. It is probably under recorded as you need to seem them land and see the underside before you can ID them safely. Painted Ladies were in evidence in good numbers on the 17th on a warm southerly breeze although none stopped for a photo.
Common Terns were calling loudly over Great Marsh on several occasions but I don’t think they’ve plucked up the courage to try the rafts yet. Most of the Swallows I’ve seen so far this spring have been heading north and east in a determined way but I’ve now seen a few pairs who are clearly hanging around even collecting mud for nest building from the pools near Mary Monts.
A Large-jawed Orb Weaver hung menacingly over Shore Hide Ditch as Blue-tailed Damselflies flew close by.
The female Peregrine dashed past while we were monitoring Gull Island and the male was close by. Things look positive for a breeding attempt next year, at 12 months old I think she was too young this year.
The Pied Wagtails from the Sailing Club Roof have recently fledged and it was great to catch one of the juveniles being fed by the female.
The breeding Redshank on my transect seem a little quiet at the moment. There is little display or agitation or nervousness which suggests that there aren’t any chicks yet or that the eggs aren’t quite ready to hatch. The average date for Redshank egg laying is the 1st May and so most Redshank pairs will be on eggs and they can go a little quiet in this period.
In contrast Lapwings lay more than two weeks earlier around the 12th April and worryingly I have seen only one chick this year so far. I had seen 17 different Lapwing chicks by this time last year! Things improved slightly on the 17th when I had my first good Lapwing chick day with seven seen from two broods. The Avocets are also just starting to hatch with five chicks seen on De L’Orne from 14 sitting birds. There are another four sitting birds at Great Marsh.
At the end of the week I completed the breeding bird transect, once again, without seeing any Redshank chicks. There were, however, at least two pairs who appeared to have chicks or at least eggs just about to hatch as the adults were calling in an agitated manned from various fence posts. They tend to do this once the chicks hatch. Redshank chicks are fiendishly difficult to find so fingers crossed I have some success in the second half of May.
At the Sailing Club one of the two Ringed Plover nests has been predated, probably within a week of hatching. There are also two Oystercatcher nests here. Ground nesting waders are particularly prone to disturbance in this area so it’s worth keeping an eye out.
I joined Kate Jackman from RSPB to walk Warren Shore looking for Ringed Plover. We found 5 new nests and a total of 15 territories. Across the reserve there are now at least eight active nests. Kate monitors several other Ringed Plover sites on the Solent and after significant failures elsewhere Needs Ore has gone from being the prime site on the Solent to being virtually the only site on the Solent, very worrying. As usual disturbance and predation are the main pressures.
Another benefit of the Ringed Plover walk with Kate was that I got to see up to 25 Sanderling using the shore to refuel. May seems to the main chance of seeing these lovely waders at Needs Ore. Some winter on the south coast and some winter in Namibia, both strategies seem to work. Breeding birds head to the High Arctic.
I noticed a Meadow Pipit carrying food. Having watched it for five minutes without daring to look away and just as my elbows were about to give up, it finally dropped to the ground in the gorse. When the adult had left I approached and located the rough area and was lucky to find the nest. I didn’t spend long looking but there appeared to be at least three chicks.
Graham has ringed many hundreds of Meadow Pipits including some very interesting recoveries including birds ringed here on autumn passage re-caught by ringers in the north of the UK the following spring. He hasn’t previously, however, ringed a Meadow Pipit chick. The nest inspection and ringing was done under the appropriate licenses and with consent from Natural England. There had been five eggs but only three had hatched.
I’ve started seeing the first instar nymph grasshoppers now including some which were attracted to the moth light. This one is a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper, one of the rarer species.
There were 40 Black-tailed Godwit on Great Marsh on the 12th. Only one was in summer plumage and given the date they are probably non-breeders including 1st summer birds. It is normal for non-breeding waders to maintain non-breeding plumage even in the summer.
On the WeBS count on the 15th a real highlight was finding a Curlew Sandpiper which had probably dropped in with 10 Dunlin onto De L’Orne Scrape after heavy rain. I got pretty wet even in De L’Orne hide as the easterly wind drove the rain into my scope as I watched it feeding. This is only the fourth time this species has been seen at Needs Ore in the last five years.
A couple of moth traps in the first half of May produced 11 species which were new for the reserve including Ringed Carpet which was only the fourth record in Hampshire in the last seven years. Given the distribution of this moth it is also probably only the 4th record in England in this period. There were 10 other new records for the reserve, some of them surprisingly common – Light Brocade, Incurvaria oehlmanniella, Red Chestnut, Chocolate-tip, White Ermine, Pale Tussock, Pseudoswammerdia combinella and Elachista canapennella.
Other interesting moths included Lunar Marbled Brown, Pale-shouldered Brocade, Dark Sword-grass, Iron Prominent, Tawny Shears, Great Prominent, Poplar Hawk-moth, Pine Hawk-moth, Foxglove Pug, Teleiopsis diffinis and Purple Bar.