31 July 2013 Oysterbed update from Chris Cockburn

Hello folks

Although a complete hush has not yet descended on the Oysterbeds lagoon, it is much quieter now that nearly all of the gulls have left after a welcome highly-productive season. The noisiest event today was when a ‘pair’ of very smart common gulls started displaying on the westernmost island (whilst being dive-bombed by many furious common terns!).

At least twelve common tern fledglings and their parents have left the site. Hopefully, there will still be as many small common tern chicks on the western island tomorrow as there were today (at least eight more than were seen on Sunday) and there are still two or three common terns ‘apparently on eggs’. It now seems that the suspected food problem has ceased and nearly all of the recent hatchlings (mostly two per nest) are surviving. However, the big spring tides (and the associated rising strandline) of last week flooded out at least seven common tern nests on the easternmost curved island, which now has very few birds and, therefore, more likely to be prone to avian predation (but, fingers crossed…!).

The Mediterranean gulls have now gone and, interestingly, so have most of the 40+ Sandwich terns that were roosting with them during the last fortnight. The few visiting Sandwich terns are now using both islands, which suggests that Med gulls are indeed excellent ‘decoys’ for Sandwich terns (and vice versa). It has been suggested (thanks Bob) that Sandwich terns can be attracted to a site by using a very simple black/white object (hood/neck contrast similarity?) – perhaps, Med gulls too could be easily attracted to new sites, assuming they are wanted there!

The autumn migration is picking up with increasing numbers of oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits and curlews in the harbour area and the appearance at the Oysterbeds of turnstones, common sandpipers, redshanks etc.

Compared to last year, when it seemed that spotting any insect was a major event, insects are becoming increasingly abundant (even Peacock butterflies appearing on cue as the Teasels came into flower). Many visitors have mentioned the apparent (welcome?!) lack of wasps; but things may well change with the ‘fruiting’ season returning to a more traditional time (e.g. blackberries are unlikely to ripen as early as in recent years – much to the present disappointment of those people hoping to make bountiful harvest ).


Chris C

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