Oysterbeds Update 12 June 2014 – Chris Cockburn

Hello folks

As expected, a few black-headed gull chicks have made their somewhat shaky first airborne excursions (they can hardly be called ‘flights’) and, thanks to freshening winds, many of them ended in angry and seemingly rather violent responses from the gulls in neighbouring territories after emergency landings were needed. It’s a tough life out there. Within the next few weeks, it is likely that many youngsters will be honing their flying skills by flying over the lagoon and Stoke Bay.

It will probably be at least three weeks before Mediterranean gull youngsters are doing likewise, but most of their chicks seem to be OK, presently (a bit of rainfall inland might be helpful!).

Common terns are being very late this year in starting nesting (at least at the Oysterbeds’ site) and it is strongly suspected that there is a shortage of suitable prey fish. In most years, common terns are well settled-in to nesting by the end of the first week in June. This year, at the Oysterbeds, common tern numbers are still increasing daily and although some of the birds seem to be probably on eggs (with the partner out fishing for suitable prey), many of them are acting as territorial pairs with little indication of the males out foraging. Moreover, speculation of a food shortage seems to be backed up by a recent Langstone Harbour small-fish survey and the RSPB Site Manager Wez Smith’s observations of little terns bringing in Gobies (silver fish good – brown fish bad – OK I mean silvery fish not Silverfish!!). Assuming that silvery Herring sprats will reach their normally very  high numbers (typically the most common prey item for the harbour’s terns), it is hoped that the terns will have a very good breeding season. However, at the Oysterbeds, it is probably very much to the common terns’ advantage to have a late breeding season (less territorial completion from the black-headed gulls that will be increasingly leaving the island as their youngsters become skilled fliers). Observations from a telescope and zooming in on long-range photos suggest that there might be at c42 pairs of common terns – 14 pairs inside the curved East island; 22 pairs on the north side of the straight West island and 6 pairs on the south side of the latter island.

There are still two pairs of oystercatchers on the west side of the curved island and one pair on the north side of the straight island.

Oh, a pair of blackbirds seem to be feeding a second brood in the “sheltering bramble bush” near which there are often folk with telescopes!!

According to my sightings locally, there are at least 27 Bee orchids in the locale (13 on the Billy Trail south of Hayling Halt and 14 in the area bounded by the lagoon mound, Billy trail and Hayling Halt); however, given my less than perfect AMD vision, I am sure someone will manage at least 270 sightings!!. Agrimony plants are also seemingly abundant and looking good – another product of a mild/wet winter, perhaps.

Meadow Brown butterflies, like most other insects, are being very camera shy, but they will be photographed at some stage – as will the Silver-Y moths etc!!


Chris C

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