Oysterbeds Update 6 June 2014 – Chris Cockburn

Hello folks

There are now lots of black-headed gull chicks of varied shapes and sizes on the two islands in the Hayling Oysterbeds’ lagoon. Inevitably, a few chicks have been lost, particularly those that venture onto the lagoon waters during very windy conditions; they get blown across the lagoon to the shorelines where they are easy pickings for the ever-vigilant local crows. However, the overall productivity might well be very good this year.

Although it is not easy to see all of the nest sites of the Mediterranean gulls, the chicks seem to be thriving. The recent unsettled weather further inland has probably resulted in these gulls finding sufficient supplies of earthworms to feed themselves and their chicks. Every day, a few noisy pairs of Mediterranean gulls fly over the site; they are most likely pairs that have failed and are therefore potential predators of small chicks.

There are now at least 14 pairs of common terns attempting nesting on the two islands (two pairs on the west side of the curved island, ten pairs on the north side of the straight island and two pairs on the south side of the straight island). Unfortunately, it is likely that at least one of the pairs will fail by tidal flooding during next week’s spring tides; but as this will be failure at the egg stage, there is a very good chance that they will re-lay . The recent strong winds have made it very difficult for the harbour’s common and little terns to find food in the more turbulent and turbid sea. It was good to see a little tern roosting on the leeward side of the straight island on Fri 6th June; but it is very unlikely that nesting will occur here.

There are probably three active oystercatcher nests on the site, two on the west side of the curved island and one on the north side of the straight island. The nest on the east side of the curved island has failed for reasons unknown – but oystercatchers are renowned for taking a break and strolling away from their nests, leaving the eggs unprotected.

Despite the strong winds, insects are becoming more noticeable, particularly in sheltered areas such as the Billy Trail. There are still a few Orange tips, Green-veined Whites, Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Holly Blues while Small Whites, Speckled Woods and Common Blues are on the increase. Ox-eye daisies seem to be regularly attracting a species of hoverfly that I have probably misidentified as Syrphus ribesii but someone will surely correct me (please zoom in on attached photo).

Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii

Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii on Ox-eye Daisy – image Chris Cockburn

Flora – there are quite a few Bee orchids in flower (a particularly striking specimen in the scrubby area south of the landfill mound – hopefully Havant BC will not be mowing in the near future!) and at least one in the area cleared of coarse vegetation in 2013 by the Friends of Langstone Harbour.

The amazingly  rampant Spotted Medick (obviously a fan of wet winters) has probably shaded out many plants (but Milk Thistles and Teasels seem to be successfully breaking through – while smaller plants are noticeably “leggy”!!). One good feature of this ground cover is that Ragwort should not have a bumper year at the Hayling Oysterbeds (but tough luck for Cinnabar moths!!). Unfortunately, Spotted Medick does not seem to be a preferred plant of rabbits or butterflies and moths. Viper’s bugloss and Bee orchids are now in bloom with at least nine orchids north of the Hayling Halt car park (at least one in the area cleared of coarse vegetation in 2013 by the Friends of Langstone Harbour) and there are more on the Billy Trail south of the car park. There is one very good orchid specimen in the scrubby area south of the mound.

Regards

Chris C

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