Oysterbeds Update 29 May 2015 – Chris Cockburn

Hello, here is a much belated update of the 2015 breeding season at the Hayling Oysterbeds.
Just like 2014, the first black-headed gulls and Mediterranean gulls arrived on the lagoon islands on February 14. Numbers of both species rapidly increased as March progressed and, although not properly counted, the numbers of Mediterranean gulls seemed to be much higher than in 2014.

Some odd behaviour was noted during March; for example all of the gulls on the curved island suddenly flew off into the harbour one afternoon; meanwhile all of the gulls on the straight island were acting perfectly normally; after half an hour, gulls returned to the curved island but landed progressively from the southern tip of the island to the northerly tip, very odd!! None of the Mediterranean gulls or Sandwich terns nested on the lagoon islands this year.
The black-headed gulls started nesting in the first week of April, as in previous years.
Common terns started visiting the site in the third week of April and appeared to be finding silvery fish prey, presumably herring sprats.

On 05 May, a low pressure system and its associated strong winds (F8/9) caused damaging waves and a tidal surge (the Cambernet weather & tide station showed that the predicted 4.6m high tide had surged to 5.28m).The result was that apart from the nests on the top of the western half of the straight island, all other nests were washed into the lagoon along with eggs and a few chicks (an estimated 500 nests were lost). Those gulls that had lost eggs soon started re-nesting.

Below are a few poor photographs taken 06 May when the tide level was 5.05m (using a macro lens and trying to keep steady while the wind was gusting  at 48 to 58 mph)


The curved island – Copyright Chris Cockburn

The west end of the straight island Copyright Chris Cockburn

The west end of the straight island Copyright Chris Cockburn

The east end of the straight island Copyright Chris Cockburn

The east end of the straight island Copyright Chris Cockburn

By 10th May, some black headed gull eggs had hatched and chicks were becoming visible; but 14th May was a cold and wet day with prolonged periods of rain and it is highly likely that some of the chicks perished from hypothermia.

By 17th of May, encouragingly high numbers of common terns were on the straight island and a few scrapes were becoming active. Nearly all the common terns were on the northern edge of the straight island and therefore not readily visible from the mound.
During the night of 18th May, another tidal surge occurred (slightly lower than the previous one at 5.22m); once again many nests were lost. It seemed that the common terns realised the dangers of nesting on the northern side of the island and a great many are now nesting atop the straight island. Meanwhile, some of the black headed gulls are busy on their third attempt at nesting; they certainly are a tenacious lot!
So, presently, it is a very busy colony with chick feeding, nest building, egg incubating etc – oh, and it is quite noisy too.

Two or three pairs of oystercatchers have now been nesting on the islands for a week or so and if all goes well their eggs should hatch in about four weeks’ time.
No little terns have attempted nesting at the Oysterbeds, but one or two have been seen fishing have been seen fishing in the area. They are probably best viewed from the eastern sea wall at FM (from a point south of the Deeps); look eastwards towards Baker’s Island and South Binness Island.

The tidal surges would have caused problems for gulls nesting on the saltmarsh areas of the RSPB islands; see http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/langstoneharbour/b/weblog/default.aspx.

Following the surging tides, calling Mediterranean gulls have been heard and seen frequently and these are probably failed pairs that will not re-nest. A few Mediterranean goals have been noticed flying low over the lagoon islands; they are not looking for nesting sites but might well be interested in unguarded small chicks!

No ringed plovers have attempted nesting in the lagoon area.

After a bumper crop of Peacock butterflies earlier, it has been rather quiet on the insect front – not helped by frequent breezy days when  photographing insects, and even plants, can be challenging.

Chris C

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