So, the sun finally decided to show itself just as the Langstone Harbour breeding seabird season 2016 draws to an end. There have been ups and downs, and plenty of new arrivals along the way.
Here is a run down of how the Hayling Season has shaped up this year:
If one species has done well at the Oysterbeds this season, it's the Black-headed gulls. If you visited between the months of May - July you will know that you could barely hear yourself talking above the raucous 'laughter' of the breeding colony. Every day I got to watch their little soap operas playing out on the island before me, from spats between two gulls that have nested a little too close to each other, to quite the opposite as members of the opposite sex got ready to nestle down and raise their chicks. I am pleased to say that 2016 brought us 686 nests, with 455 chicks successfully taking to the air and flying on to live another day. This is much more successful than last year when, despite having 627 nesting pairs settle on the islands, only 162 successfully fledged due to a high tide coupled with a storm surge taking out a lot of the early nests. They have certainly had it a lot better this year, and here's to hoping that summer 2017 will be just as fruitful.
Black-headed gulls settling down at the beginning of the season
Now we move on to the story of our hardy Common terns. I've watched these hardy little birds chase off gulls and crows almost three times their size to keep chicks safe and nest tirelessly to try and ensure the continuation of their species - they certainly are resilient. Despite several failed nesting attempts on the islands, the terns managed to raise four chicks that are now fledged and can still be seen, but it won't be long before they make their incredible journey to Africa for the first time. This might not seem so many after having seen a peak of 57 nests, but I can tell you it is still an improvement again on last year when only one chick fledged. If you want to see these beautiful 'swallows of the sea' for an aerobatic display you will need to be quick, as it won't be long until they take that intrepid journey.
(Note from Wez. We're already planning work in 2017 to help give our Common Terns a better success rate and as part this, we're in the initial stages of seeking funding and permission for one or two nesting rafts at the Oysterbeds. The aim would be to put these out just as the Common Terns are looking for nesting sites but after the gulls have settled so as to give them an exclusive breeding space).
One of the Common terns giving an impressive fly-past
I had many people ask me about Mediterranean gulls on my jaunts around the Oysterbeds and so I thought I would give them a mention. Despite early signs indicating that 2 pairs had attempted to nest on the island, nothing appeared to come of this in the end. However, the Mediterranean gulls did do incredibly well in other parts of the harbour, and all will be revealed on these numbers in a future blog. Fledglings were seen on the islands after having flown across from other areas however, and are easily recognised over Black-headed gulls with the prominent white borders they have around their young brown feathers.
This year we were lucky enough to have also fledged three Oystercatcher chicks. I was lucky enough to spot these three little bundles of fluff and leg running along the beach at the North end car park when they were only a few days old, but now they are fully grown and on the wing. As any of you who have come into contact with Oystercatcher parents know, they are fully protective of their young, and being right next to a busy footpath their defensive piping call could be heard quite often.
03/08/2016 - Mini me!
As you can see from the pictures, this little one grew up to be a real mini-me of it's parent. It was a pleasure seeing them grow up, and I hope they enjoy their Oysterbeds home.
So, there it is, the end of the breeding season at the Hayling Oysterbeds. However, there is still plenty to see at the local nature reserve, as the seasons only bring about change, and not an end. Pay a visit and see what the autumn time brings...
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