It looks as if nesting might be earlier at the Hayling Oysterbeds this year – today, the first black-headed gull nest-building attempt was seen on West Island (between pegs F & G – but nearer to G). Plenty of Mediterranean gulls still strutting about on the lagoon islands and a few Sandwich terns have been flying over the site during the high tide period. The 2 or 3 pairs of the lagoon’s resident oystercatchers are unlikely to nest successfully unless they can become as aggressively territorial as the gulls (leaving your egg-filled nest unguarded is not a good strategy) nor is nesting below the mean-springs high tide level (unfortunately, the lagoon islands rarely have helpful strandlines to inform the birds).
The recent coincidence of light breezes and sunny weather during the high tide period has resulted in many gulls taking up territories on South Binness & Round Nap Islands plus a few, apparently, considering Long Island’s shingle ridge. If their behaviour corresponds with previous seasons, they will probably start egg-laying at the end of April (3 or 4 weeks later than the Oysterbeds’ birds). The nest counts on South Binness & Round Nap are likely to take place in the week of 12th May to 16th May and Thursday 15th May is probably the ideal date – weather permitting.
The tides have been surging slightly, despite the benign weather conditions – but nowhere near as damaging as the recent winter surges. This effect appeared to have caused a slight delay to the RSPB’s shingle recharge that is taking place on Baker’s Island (on Monday, the excavator was unable to reach the submerged shingle bags on the peak of the tides). Let’s hope that the little terns appreciate the RSPB’s efforts to save them and that they, the little terns – not the RSPB – have a successful breeding season.