May - June 2018
Mute Swans reached record numbers for the second year running with the post- and non-breeding flock rising to 76 by mid June.
The last two Shelduck departed in mid May but our resident Wigeon remained throughout. A pair of Garganey were seen intermittently together and singly, possibly indicating a breeding attempt, but no nest was found nor young seen. Similarly for the presence of a male Shoveler in May. Two pairs of Great-crested Grebes set up territory in the south lagoons but have not yet started to nest. They are presumably awaiting a hatch of carp-fry before getting down to it; this late nesting by Great-crested Grebes has been a feature of recent years.
Autumn arrived before midsummer's day with the first returning Teals and Shovelers back on site.
Perhaps the best bird of the period was a reward for those who came down for mid-week ringing of chicks in the Black-headed Gull colony, for whom an obliging Spoonbill flew south. This is only the second record for the site, the first being in August 2007.
Following the record number of Mute Swans it is more pleasing to report another record count, one of 14 Hobbies over the lagoons and meadows.
Migrant waders were scarce: a Ringed Plover on three dates; a Dunlin briefly, and two Greenshanks passed through. There were occasional sightings of a single summering Snipe, but breeding was not suspected, and Lapwings, Redshanks and Little Ringed Plovers all failed to breed successfully. Green Sandpipers took their annual break from Rye Meads for just five weeks before the first birds were back, and up to three Oystercatchers seemed to be visiting birds from Amwell.
A maximum count of 28 Common Terns appears to roughly represent our breeding population, swollen this year by breeding attempts by two pairs on the new rafts sited on 17 lagoon. More excitingly, a Black Tern was seen at the end of May, believed to be our first spring record since 1993!
Up to three Cuckoos were regularly seen up until mid June. A Starling roost developed on the Lee Marsh in early June and 430 were diligently counted by observers probably motivated by the hope of a ‘pink-un’ amidst the chattering flocks.
The only Warblers of note were an early moving juvenile Willow Warbler and a Grasshopper Warbler. Neither of these species seems to have bred on site this year.
Finally a male Whinchat in early May was succeeded by a female the following day. Most years this would represent the not unexpected end of chat passage but two surprises remained in this unusual spring: A male Redstart in May followed by a truly unseasonal Black Redstart in June.