It seems that something like summer is with us, the weather continues dry, even sunny and fairly warm and it even appears that it will continue this way to the end of the coming week. The results of some warmth are showing in a significant increase in the number and variety of insects. On Saturday I was sampling water beetles in the pond complex just north of the road at Farlington Marshes and the number of damselflies and especially hairy dragonfly was very pleasing to see. I failed to get a picture of a hairy dragonfly despite them coming within a couple of metres of me several times, they are inquisitive but don’t land much and fly very readily. I will post more about the water beetles later, but for now here is a picture of a large larva I caught, it has huge jaws and is a fierce predator.
The summer feel was enhanced further by the large flocks of starling all across the fields, these flocks are groups of family parties that come to feed on the permanent pasture after breeding in houses around Portsmouth, a favourite food is leather jackets, the larvae of craneflies.
The young starlings are a greyish brown rather than the glossy black of the adults and are easy to pick out.
Most of the waders have passed through now and we are left with the few summering birds, the larger wader species don’t breed in their first or even first few summers. On the rising tide in Russell’s Lake I saw 23 grey plover, 19 dunlin, 27 bar-tailed godwit and a scatter of curlew. Only the dunlin are likely to be going to breed this summer and these will have been birds from one of the races that breed in the very high Arctic and winter the furthest south. There were also 78 black-tailed godwit on the Lake, this species breeds in Iceland and so the breeding birds should all be there now, leaving us with just first summer birds, so it was curious that 26 of these birds were apparently adults in breeding plumage.
Along the base of the seawall on the east side of the reserve there is a small “beach”, but what looks like sand at a distance is actually millions of tiny shells of Hydrobia, the main food for many of the harbour’s wintering waders and shelduck.
The breeding season is in full swing and I was pleased to see that at least one of the lapwing broods is growing well and that there were still all four chicks surviving. Both pairs of mute swan have hatched cygnets, the pair on the Stream just two but the ones at the Deeps have six, although they have moved them to the south wall ditch now.
The summer visitors are also breeding and there are lots of whitethroat and sedge warbler in the brambles.
Walking around the seawall I saw a number of invertebrates walking along the top of the wall, but they were all very active in the sunshine and I got only one picture, this one of a velvety black spider.
There were few birds of real note about, a spotted flycatcher was again in the Bushes at the Double Ponds and a young marsh harrier was hunting over the reedbed, giving me another opportunity to take a poor picture of this bird!