June and early July are often quiet times for birding. That said, June began with a fantastic spring curlew sandpiper which was lovely and stayed for a few days, and the avocets have done really well. The greater yellowlegs remained and has been seen almost every day throughout June and now July!
Much time has been spent looking out at Hill Head, checking the gulls on the beach. It paid off as one night a 2cy common gull was present (which sadly wouldn’t turn into a ring-billed gull…), and I (finally) spotted the 3cy yellow-legged gull that has been lurking since April. It was joined by an adult on 1st July and on a few other occasions prior to that. A black-necked grebe was picked up by Dan Houghton but I somehow missed it. Shame. Would’ve been an impressive sight in Hampshire!
On finishing the survey at 5am I headed down to Hill Head. That too was very pleasant. What’s more, sea watching was a success – there were birds to see! Mostly gannets passing through, presumably from the Alderney colony, and a flock of common scoter drifting west on the Solent. There were terns too. The majority were common terns (which have chicks on the reserve) but also sandwich and little terns. The evening with two Dave’s was similarly successful. A grey seal that evening was another highlight; my first for the Solent (and England) having only seen them in Shetland last year. It seems they don’t only occur outside Tesco!
I spent the morning of Saturday 4th July on patch with Dan before my WeBS count at Farlington Marshes. The scrapes were still a sea of black and white, dominated mostly by black-headed gulls with now 500 or so fledglings. I’ve noticed this year how the avocet population has increased quite a bit lately with over 60 adults and fledglings seen on 7th July, with at least 20 chicks! That’s the highest number of avocets yet to be recorded on the reserve. A number of these avocets are colour ringed, so I’ll let you know their history’s once I find out.
As well as avocets and black-headed gulls, many wildfowl were using the scrapes including mallard, gadwall, shelduck and Canada geese, each with numerous youngsters swimming about, and also a few returning teal. Some of the oystercatchers, common terns and Mediterranean gull also have chicks now.
As it reached mid-July, the slow but steady trickle of waders continued with a little ringed plover on 11th, a lovely summer plumage knot on 17th, daily common sandpipers, and a summer plumage dunlin on 15th, 16th and 17th. The avocet numbers have remained high, the greater yellowlegs is still enjoying the reserve and other waders, though admittedly missed despite my increased effort, include a greenshank and green sandpipers.
The gulls on the beach at Hill Head have been interesting too throughout July. The number of Mediterranean gulls increased somewhat to between 250 and 300 individuals on 17th, presumably mostly birds from the Langstone colony. It was an extremely impressive sight!! Ivor and I noted how a number of these were ringed, so it’ll be interesting to know their histories! By 18th, the numbers had dropped again. Maybe the gulls had moved on? Black-headed gull numbers have reduced too.
Another gull highlight was a juvenile yellow-legged gull picked out by Dan while sea watching on 18th. It was nice to watch one for a while and try to work out what distinguished it from other young gulls. The 3rd year bird is also still present. Present too are numerous herring gulls of all ages and a number of great and lesser black-backed gulls. The lesser black-blacks still seem to have their eye on tasty wader chicks, but are usually chased away before they get the chance!
As I eluded to earlier, some patch visits have been admittedly rather quiet. I guess you need days like that to make the exciting days even more enjoyable! On Sunday (19th), the 11 Acres Scrape was almost devoid of birds, with significantly less birds than the previous day. The North and South Scrapes too are reducing in bird numbers as the breeding birds disperse. I’m sure the returning waders aren’t far behind.
Due to the quietness of patch on Sunday, the other taxa were particularly distracting with several insects ID-ed and enjoyed, including a four-banded longhorn and a fly with lovely green eyes, as well as a dead, decapitated mole. One can only assume it had fallen prey to one of the resident foxes but it’s not often you get the chance to see one up close! Perhaps one day I’ll see a live one.
I wonder what will turn up next… Least sandpiper maybe?! I can live in hope.