August 2022

These are my own observations. A complete record of all permit holder sightings as recorded in the logbook will be reported in the next Newsletter due in mid-September.

Adam has used his regularly booked contractor time to reduce reed encroachment on open standing water in the northwest corner of Black Water and to allow the reed to regenerate. Also, to create a new island on De L’Orne Lagoon, to create larger Avocet Islands at Great Marsh and to dredge a channel from De L’Orne lagoon straight out to the scrape which we will be able to view down from the hide. The new channel will be great when water levels return.

The extremely dry summer has seen water levels continue to drop which has actually created great muddy margin feeding for returning waders and good numbers were seen throughout the month especially around Venner. Passerines were moving in good numbers throughout August although clear nights often encourage migrants to fly straight over without stopping. 

Sparrowhawk

Little Ringed Plover moved through in the first half of August including a family of five (of which three were juveniles) seen on Great Marsh on 5th August. They weren’t ringed and so not the family that had been successful on the Gins.

One of the highlights in August was seeing my first patch Wood Sandpiper. It’s the first one here for more than two years. There were actually two present on De L’Orne Flood on the 5th August (they had been seen by others on the 1st). At least one Wood Sandpiper remained on the reserve for the rest of August with most sightings from Venner Hide. It was also nice to get a clear recording of the characteristic call as it flew over Black Water.

Wood Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper calling over Black Water

An Osprey favoured the tree on Inchmery Saltmarsh from the 6th until the month end. It regularly ventured out over the Solent and then back up the river, there may well have been more than one individual.

Osprey

Whinchats started to move through from the 6th with a peak count of six lined up along Whinchat Fence on the 28th. It’s great that they always come back to this fence and also the brambles close by around Venner South.

Whinchat

Yellow Wagtails were in fairly short supply with singles overhead on only two dates, the 6th (my earliest record) and the 20th. Tree Pipits were also scarce with just one heard on the 7th (again my earliest record). Early morning clear skies and warm conditions may encourage these migrants to fly high making them difficult to hear. I did manage to get some audio of the Tree Pipit as it called overhead.

Tree Pipit calling over Pullen

The peak count of Greenshank was 13 on the 7th, this is the most I’ve ever seen on the reserve. The newly dredged muddy fringes at the western end of Black Water encouraged waders to drop in.

Greenshank

The only Garden Warbler of the month was an individual on Venner South Brambles on the 9th.

Garden Warbler

Willow Warblers moved through the reserve in good numbers throughout the month including a singing bird near Venner on the 9th. Chiffchaff usually follow in September, a bit later than the Willow Warblers partly because they have less distance to travel to get to their wintering areas.

A pair of Great White Egret commuted between Venner and De L’Orne in the 2nd week of the month.

Late broods included a Meadow Pipit carrying food near the Viewing Gate on the 11th August and a Reed Warbler carrying food near Venner Hide on the 9th August.

Reed Warbler with food for a 2nd brood

The late Avocet chick was seen regularly during August and was the 11th individual to fledge from Needs Ore in 2022.

Avocet with juvenile

The first Common Gulls appeared on the Beaulieu River from the 14th and the first returning juvenile Black-tailed Godwits were also seen the same day. A flock of 111 mixed adult and juvenile Black-tailed Godwits were seen on Venner on the 28th. This is my first three figure count on the reserve and is no doubt due to the excellent water levels for feeding waders.

Green Sandpipers were a common sight and sound with a peak of seven around Venner on the 14th

Green Sandpiper

A high count of 37 roosting Little Egrets was on Venner on the 19th and a juvenile Cattle Egret (with a black bill) was also seen on Venner on the 11th and the 14th.

A Tawny Owl flew across in front of the car as I was heading past St Leonard’s Barn on the evening of the 19th

While we were checking the Moth Trap in Sims Wood on the 21st at least six Hawfinches were ‘tsick-ing’ overhead.

Other than the spotty juvenile I had seen in late July the main run of Redstarts started from the 28th August with a peak of three that day. Once they start coming through I normally see at least one each visit although that can be from any part of the reserve. The three on the 28th were widely spread with singles on Great Marsh Scrub, Mary Monts Garden and Spring Meadow Corner.

Redstart

A second calendar year Hobby spent the last week of August hunting around the Black Water area.

2cy Hobby photo by Dimitri Moore

Two Common Sandpipers were seen briefly around Venner in the last week of the month.

Another wader highlight for me was a Ruff on the 26th, initially on the eastern end of Venner South and then in front of Venner Hide. A second different Ruff was also on Venner on the 31st. There have been only eight records of Ruff in the last seven years.

Ruff

Wheatears were seen throughout August with a peak count of six on the 26th. The contrasting white tips to the juvenile inner greater coverts indicate that this is a 1st winter bird.

Wheatear

Just like last year Spotted Flycatchers seemed to favour Spring Meadow Corner. It makes you wonder if adult birds repeat their journey from previous years and also teach younger birds these stop off points. The six I saw here on the 28th (plus another just west of Shore Hide) is the highest ever count by anyone at Needs Ore beating the four in 1953! At least four remained fly-catching from low vantage points near the water trough until the month end.

Spotted Flycatcher

The first Wigeon of the autumn were a pair on Black Water on the 31st. Other returning wildfowl included Pintail from the 28th and Shoveler from the 9th and other returning winterers included the first Kingfisher of the autumn dashing past the western end of Black Water on the 9th and the first Grey Wagtail calling over Pullen on the 20th.

The water levels around Pullen look great for Spotted Crake, a bit of a long shot but it’s worth a few minutes in Pullen Hide each visit especially as Water Rails are showing really well here at the moment. 

Water Rail

Two Spotted Redshank remained on the reserve for most of August with most sightings on Venner.

Spotted Redshank

By the end of the month Blackcaps were tacking noisily in the hedgerows with at least 15 counted between the Reedy Ditch and Spring Meadow on the 26th.

Also as August finished flocks of Linnets were forming with 60 at the Sailing Club and three figure counts of Swallow and Sand Martin and the odd House Martin, all heading east.

It was great to watch a Roe Deer and her fawn wading over from Venner Island

Roe Deer

Migrant Hawkers were on the wing from the 7th August and quickly became by far the commonest dragonfly on the reserve. Much more unusual was a Golden-ringed Dragonfly at De L’Orne Hide on the 20th and the rarest of all was the Southern Migrant Hawker which I found again on the 7th August despite Shore Hide Ditch being completely dry.

Migrant Hawker

The only butterfly of note was a Clouded Yellow which flew through the paddock area on the 28th August. A new grasshopper for the reserve was a Common Groundhopper found next to my moth trap along Pullen Beach Gorse on the 7th August

I ran six moth traps during August at various locations around the NNR including a trip to Sims Wood on the 20th August which successfully caught the main targets Light Crimson Underwing and Dark Crimson Underwing.

Light Crimson Underwing and Dark Crimson Underwing

Rare moths which were seen less than five times in Hampshire last year included Celypha rosaceana, Antler Moth, Epermenia falciformis, Small Mottled Willow, Jersey Mocha, Dotted Clay and Stenotechia gemmella. Even rarer with only one county sighting last year were Scrobipalpa ocellatella and Cedestis subfasciella and rarer still with no sightings at all in the county last year were Ancylosis oblitella and Coleophora salicorniae.

July 2022

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.

Green Sandpiper

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.

adult Black-tailed Godwits

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.

juvenile Oystercatcher

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.

Little Grebes

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.

Common Tern

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.

Little Ringed Plover

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.

Fox staring at the Little Ringed Plover nest

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.

Little Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover chicks photo by Graham Giddens

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.

Great White Egret

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.

Essex Skipper

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.

Southern Migrant Hawker

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.

Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)

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).  

Mottled Grasshopper

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.

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.