Oysterbeds Update 25 Apr 2014 – Chris Cockburn

Hello Folks

There are increasing numbers of black-headed gull nests viewable on both islands in the Hayling Oysterbeds’ lagoon; but some will have little chance of success as they are at too low an elevation (having been started during the recent run of neap tides). Hopefully, these particular nest-builders will, in time, learn as might the “39ers” pair at the bus stop and the territorial birds on the footpaths. Perhaps the most “cool” black-headed gulls on the site this year are the few individuals that have decided not to join in the noisy and stressful “goings-on” on the two islands, but have decided to spend the summer casually paddling about and eating the occasional worm (most likely, Peacock – Sabella pavonina – worms).

By keeping a fairly close watch on the RSPB’s harbour islands, it is apparent that the smallest island (Round Nap) has attracted rather typical numbers of territorial (soon to be nesting!) black-headed gulls. South Binness Island, normally the site for the largest numbers of nesting gulls, presently shows infrequent signs of territorial gull  behaviour although there is often seen a multitude of gulls sitting on the water, waiting to access the site. Like in 2007, the habitat is not ideal (following winter storms, there is little vegetation visible – the flora is still there as tap-roots; but, by June, it will probably be as green as ever out there!). And, like 2007 and in several other years, peregrine falcons have been roosting on the shingle so, obviously, deterring birds from taking up nesting territories. Hopefully, the peregrines will be encouraged to roost elsewhere – after all, their numbers are probably much greater than before their dreadful problems in the 20th Century.

Probably because of the habitat changes on S Binness and peregrine-roosting, a significantly large number of black-headed gulls have taken up territories on Long Island since Tue 22 April. Prior to this year, there were reports in 2008 and 1996 of no more than two pairs attempting nesting but with no success. If this new Long Island colony flourishes, there is a chance that the territorial pair of carrion crows will be unable to predate the pairs ringed plovers & oystercatchers that have repeatedly failed at this site. However, Long Island has long been the RSPB’s only permitted landing area in daylight hours for boat users.

Like in 2007, with much of the S Binness vegetated ridge appearing to be clear of vegetation after the winter storms, it is possible that Mediterranean gulls will be seeking alternative nesting sites. It is interesting that reports from the Poole Bay area suggest that there is I notable increase in Mediterranean gull numbers. It seems that at least 2 or 3 pairs of Meds are beginning to act territorially on the (curved) NE island in the lagoon.

Common & little terns continue to roost at high tide on the Stoke Bay  N Spit (more than 30 of former and at least 8 of latter) – soon, it will become apparent if they will nest locally.

At least two pairs of Sandwich terns are showing good interest in the NE Island of the lagoon.

A few dunlins, one bar-tailed godwit and varying numbers of whimbrels have recently  been noted on passage.

Unlike spring 2013, there are masses of Daisies, Lesser Celandines, Medicks and Milk Thistle rosettes – and now,  “Field Forget-me-nots”  – on the mound that overlooks the lagoon.

Lots of Green-veined Whites but very few other butterflies recently.


Chris C


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