Notes of April

Where does the time go? Three weeks have past and I haven’t found the time to put finger to key on these pages. Its been a busy time out on the reserves and to be honest the only interesting things I have seen have been while doing other things. These past three weeks have mostly been spent at Farlington, stuck firmly in fencing mode. But after another full on day with the Farlington Volunteers today, Im glad to say we have managed to get the whole place stockproof once again.

New fenceline in the aerial field

New fenceline in the aerial field

April is a fantastic month with lots of spring species either migrating back, popping up out of the ground or hatching. In between busying ourselves I did manage to note a few of these so I shall give a brief overview of April’s highlights;

For a week or so around the 5th a Juv Little gull frequented the south marsh, around the deeps and the willow pool.

Juv. Little gull - Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull – Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull - Deeps (5th April)

Juv. Little gull – Deeps (5th April)

Sandwich tern made a welcome return to the harbour also around the 5th with Common tern and Little tern arriving a week or so later.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Two Whimbrel were sighted off the point on the 5th as well as a male Wheatear on South marsh. A single Avocet on the 14th was unexpected as well as two adult Spoonbill. A Greenshank was noted on the lake and I even had a treat of seeing a Weasel!!- a first for me on the reserve.

Wheatear

Wheatear

Further into the month, on the 21st I saw my first Redstart of the year – a female on the fence lines at Southmoor. This area is a hotspot for passerines and I also noted Blackcap (male and female), Whitethroat, with Willow warbler and Chiffchaff in song.

As we approach the end of the month good numbers of swallows are now on the marsh, and can be seen collecting mud from the wet areas of north marsh, next to the track. Lapwing are now busy sitting on eggs with sightings of three chicks already! Another wheatear was noted today as well as a Lesser whitethroat in song right next to the hut.

Advertisements

A Beardy Good Day

Well its been yet another busy weekend. Yesterday the Trust had a presence at the well attended Hampshire Ornithological Society’s Open Day. Not only was it a great chance to engage with like minded people but they also put on a good selection of talks – a busy but most enjoyable and educational day.

Today started bright and early as we were taking advantage of a good weather window to do some bird ringing in the reedbed at Farlington. Arriving just before sunrise, we got up several nets in the redbed in front of the hut. We didn’t have to wait long before the first birds came in; A pair of stunning Bearded tit, then a few more. By the end of the session we had caught and ringed 13 Beardies along with a male Reed bunting, a Meadow Pipit, a Blue tit and perhaps most surprising of all a Willow warbler. This was an obvious new arrival to the country with a thick matt of pollen above its upper mandible. This will have come from feeding from pollen rich flowers found on the continent. A top bird and the first for the year on the Marsh.

Male Bearded tit

Male Bearded tit

Look at that moustache !

Look at that moustache !

Comparative close up on the female

Comparative close up on the female

Meadow pipit

Meadow pipit

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

Pollen soaked Warbler 'nose'

Pollen soaked Warbler

Another male Beardie

Another male Beardie

The first’s didn’t stop there during the ringing session I saw my first Wheatear of the year out on the marsh (although they have been spotted on the reserve for over a week now.) We also a saw female/immature Marsh harrier, 3 Sand martins and a Short-eared owl, which was over in the hayfield.

We rounded up the session by mid morning but it was too nice to head home so I stuck around and went for a walk around the reserve to see what other migrants had touched down that morning. First interesting observation was the Brent goose splinter group were still present on the main marsh, but there were only 63 of them today. Then we found two groups of Wheatear when looking out onto the marsh from the blockhouse. There were two lots of 3 containing equal numbers of males and females, and then we later saw another female at the back of the reedbed, totalling 7! Moments later we got a glimpse of a Swallow dashing northwards.

Chiffchaff singing in the bushes

Chiffchaff singing in the bushes

Three Chiffchaff were noted; at the point, in the bushes and behind the building. When getting back to the hut in time for a late lunch there was a familiar sound in the distant; a singing Sedge warbler. Unfortunately it didn’t show itself  but with such a distinctive call i guess it didn’t need to.

It was a distant bird so you might need to turn your volume up to hear it….

Saturday notes

The day had a promising start with the sun beaming down on Farlington. I found it hard to believe that the weather was going to change around midday but didnt want to take any chances, getting a few odd jobs done and then heading out around seawall. I knew hightide was around midday, so this would be the best time to engage with visitors as well as see what birds were on the reserve.

I set off walking around the seawall in a clockwise  direction (from the hut) after hearing a tipoff of an Osprey lurking in that area. It didnt take long to find it sat on a low post on Long Island (to the south of North Binness island – the one with the dead trees). Also in the area were two Kestrel and a Peregrine. 

Osprey (honest) in the heat haze

Osprey (honest) in the heat haze

A little further round a group of Yellow wagtails came up from around the cattle in the main marsh. I caught sight of 15, but with so much hopping around it was hard to get an accurate tally, could be more in the region of 20 birds. Also around the Deeps was a Green sandpiper. 

On to the point, two Wheatear were busy feeding on the strandline. One was far more showy than the other and let me take a few pictures.

Female Wheatear

Female Wheatear

The tide was now at its highest and with little dry ground left for birds, a large flock of Oystercatcher took flight. Id estimate it to be a few hundred strong. Still hanging on to a small dry island were 53 Grey plover some still looking smartish in their summer breeding plumage (although now a bit tatty in moult). A single Whinchat was on the main fenceline between the reedbed and the marsh. Another visitor reported seeing a further 8 on the reserve.

After all the recent rainfall the lake is very high at the moment, although not as full as a few days ago. This has meant few birds are roosting in this area. Instead waders and waterfowl are choosing the stream and the scrape to roost. Along the stream with the Godwit flock were 2 Knot. A bit further upstream were 11 Shoveler (the first I have seen this year – Autumn is coming!) along with good numbers of Gadwall and a few Wigeon.

Just before sitting down to some lunch I had a quick look out on the stream in front of the hut. A Kingfisher was amazingly sat on one of the posts of the ‘fence’ in middle of the stream. Along the waters edge a Green sandpiper went about looking for its lunch too.

Green sandpiper

Green sandpiper (and Moorhen)

Later in the afternoon I caught up with a group conducting their monthly WeBS (Wetland Birds Survey) count from the seawall. They had seen a great mix of species with a highlight of seeing three separate Osprey !! One was mostly sat in the dead trees of North Binness Island, one was the same bird I had seen on the low posts of long island and another was very mobile flying in the west of the harbour. A pretty good day out.

A Fine Selection

Yesterday I arrived at Farlington fairly early, so with such a fine morning and a little time on my hands before carrying out a butterfly transect I thought I’d have a wander around the sea wall.

I headed from the hut through the bushes, accompanied by calls of Whitethroats and a couple of Sedge warblers, up onto the Sea wall. The tide was just dropping so birds were busy probing the fresh mud for a tasty meal. Looking west into the harbour, towards the Broom channel was a Little tern busy feeding, repetitively hovering and diving. It sat a while on the fresh mud which allowed great views with the scope. I carried on a little further and looked the other way into the marsh; three Reed warblers were fighting over territory in the closest section of reedbed to the view point, noisily calling from the highest reeds.

Common Tern

Common Tern

A lone female Wheatear was present at the Willow pool as was a Green woodpecker randomly hopping its way from fencepost to fencepost, giving its laughter call as it went. Two Common tern fished off the seawall and looking into the harbour I was able to find three Whimbrel. In the channel between the point and Bakers island, 6 Great crested grebe were floating in a small raft.

Whimbrel

Whimbrel

I returned to the hut to the charismatic pinging of five Bearded tits hopping their way around the reedbed busy hunting for insects for their young.

After a pleasant walk around I got on with my butterfly transects. On the first transect I found the lovely Holly blue and on the second I saw my first Small heath of the year.

A most pleasant way to spend a few hours at Farlington.

Just in: The Spring Collection

Sorry blog fans it’s been a busy few days with lots happening and little time to put fingers to key to tell you all about it.

Bird news;

We’ve had a good number of spring migrants coming through the Solent reserves.  I saw my first Swallow at Farlington on the 9th, a day later I caught up with my first Wheatear in the main marsh and then later in the day a Yellow Wagtail at Southmoor. The terns have started to make their arrivals to the harbour, Sandwich were the first to arrive around the 7th then Common and now Little. All of which can be seen fishing off the sea walls of Farlington and Southmoor.

Quick phone snap of a wheatear.

Quick phone snap of a wheatear.

Mandarin on the Stream

Mandarin on the Stream

With recent favourable southern winds, the numbers of spring passerines has been high with Wheatear numbers fluctuating wildly (highs of 15 birds one day to none the next), presumably stopping off for a quick feed and then shooting on northwards. Other notable Farlington sightings have been Mandarin Duck on the stream (on the 14th), Ring Ouzel (female) (23rd) and 5 Little tern seen from the Farlington sea wall (also on the 23rd). More recently a Cuckoo has been spotted around the point field area and also on Tuesday I caught a glimpse of a Whinchat on the fenceline between the main marsh and mudlands.

Winchat along the main marsh fence line

Whinchat along the main marsh fence line

Spring hasn’t all been about the birds though. A good number of Butterfly species are on the wing now, with all the spring species being in abundance. I also spotted my first Large red damselfly at Swanwick last Thursday as well as seeing a pair of Blackcap.

The Monday Beechcrofters try out the newest bench on the seawall looking onto the North Marsh.

The Monday Beechcrofters try out the newest bench on the seawall looking onto the North Marsh.

We have also been busy on the reserves with the volunteer teams doing a selection of tasks. The Beechcroft team has been busy controlling Spear thistles at Southmoor, Farlington and Swanwick and installing a bench on the seawall of Farlington. The Farlington team has started giving the hut a good spruce up on Tuesday giving it a lick of paint both inside and out, and carried out repairs on our fences before the cattle return later in the year.

Farlington volunteers painting the hut

Farlington volunteers painting the hut

Fully Sprung

Well it seems as if spring is in full flow on the reserves. It feels like Chiffchaffs have launched an invasion over the last couple of weeks as I don’t seem to be able to go anywhere without hearing one or more. At Farlington, Lapwing are throwing themselves around the skies, putting on a fantastic aerial acrobatics show and Skylarks are in full song blasting out their notes from the heights above.

Pair of Lapwing. Bird on the right carries a ring - Could this be a site faithful bird ringed in previous years as a chick?

Pair of Lapwing. Bird on the right carries a ring – Could this be a site faithful bird ringed in previous years as a chick?

Today on a cattle check at Southmoor I saw my first Blackcap of the year and a good number of Mediterranean gulls circling over the Budds Farm sewage works. There were so many in fact, that there always seemed to be one or two in view sounding their call (fondly referred to as sounding like a posh cat).

Loved up Mute Swans in front of the hut. Female on the left, Male on the right

Loved up Mute swans in front of the hut. Female on the left, Male on the right

Later I headed to Farlington to carry out the first week of butterfly transects. Usually it take a few weeks to get anything on a survey but with the recent warm weather there were a few butterflies on the wing ; Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock being the most numerous. Yesterday while walking out to catch the RSPB boat to the islands we saw three Sandwich terns from The Point and along the way we caught sight of two Black-headed gulls on the deeps ‘Tern raft’. Could this be the first year we have something nesting out in The Deeps?!

Although there are still a number of our winter guests in residence (Brent geese and winter waders) its clear that winter has lost its grip and spring is in full flow. Within the next week or two, Lapwing will be on eggs and I might even get a glimpse of a Farlington Wheatear.

Over enthusiastic Med Gulls – Posh cat reference might need some imagination…

Sunshine & Showers

Bearded tit

Bearded tit – As seen from the track by the building

Well what a difference a few hours can make. Today has been no exception to this rule. To say the weather has been unpredictable and damn right  grumpy at times would be an understatement.

Today we were joined by the Farlington volunteers down on the marsh completing the last sections of fencing in yet another fencing project. The weather started off threatening followed by a morning of heavy rain but this did little to put off this hardy group. While we were straining the wire, someone noticed a fantastic, large caterpillar. We later found out it was a Drinker moth larvae. It probably has one or two more stages (instars) to go before pupating into a moth, emerging in July or August but it was still an impressive size.

Drinker moth Caterpillar

Drinker moth Caterpillar

As we busied ourselves with fencing duties near the sea wall a mix of Terns were busy thinking about lunch. Little, Sandwich and Common terns were all on fishing duties going backwards and forwards along the sea wall on the rising tide. 2 Wheatear were also in the area while Whimbrel and Medgull could frequently be heard.

On walking back to the building for lunch we past the Deeps and spotted the Spoonbill. It was there for a moment before flying off to the scrape behind the reedbed.

In the afternoon sun the reserve seem to come alive. Orange-tips fluttered by while Sedge and Reed warblers chattered from tops of the reeds. Bearded tits seemed to enjoy the calm conditions and were not afraid of allowing themselves close enough for a good photo, coming within a few meters of the main track near the building. 4 were seen at once, busy collecting insects, before flying off and diving within the reedbed.

Sedge warbler

Sedge warbler

Lets just hope the weather holds out long enough for me to carry out my Hookheath butterfly transect tomorrow. Here is a snap from last weeks transect – A female Orange-tip and two Orange-tip eggs on Cuckoo Flower.

Female Orange-tip & 2 Orange-tip eggs on Cuckoo flower

Female Orange-tip & 2 Orange-tip eggs on Cuckoo flower