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Birdlife in the Summer

The arrival of early summer ups the volume of birdsong from the landfall cries of the later migrants.  There is a sense of urgency as they have to attract a mate quickly and begin nest building to ensure that they complete their breeding cycle before moving on.  The sound of Chiffchaffs, the clue is in the name as far as their song goes, Blackcaps, Whitethroats and occasional Willow warbler can also be heard across the Common. Reed warblers can be heard in the reed bed at the head of the creek and the loud and explosive sound of the Cetti’s warbler is often heard in the trees surrounding the adjacent car park.

A pair of Mute swans regularly takes up residence close to the marina car park and they seem comfortable with the comings and goings of yacht crews. They build a substantial and conspicuous nest in the form of a large heap of reeds and rushes.  The parents, known as the cob and pen, are very protective of their nest and eggs and should be left well alone.

It is not widely recognised that swan nests and eggs are protected from disturbance by law and technically all swans still belong to the Queen!  When the cygnets hatch after about 5 weeks of incubation, they stay around the nest for a couple of days before their parents shepherd them off into the Hamble River.

The Common has a sizeable population of Long Tailed Tits that are resident all year round and these little birds make super little capsule shaped nests from moss, cobwebs, lichens and are lined with feathers.  They start nest building early in the spring so by summer there are small family flocks of these charming little birds feeding amongst the scrub and tree tops.  These little birds are one of the few bird species that appear to be on the increase in the UK.  

In the warm summer sunshine, you may catch sight of the odd lizard basking in the sunshine if you are very lucky – usually you just hear a slight rustling as they scuttle off into the purple moor grass.  These are Common lizards and tend to be a rich brown colour with golden brown stripes or spots on their backs and can be up to 15 cm long.  For the rest of the summer the young lizards need to fatten themselves up to survive their winter hibernation by feeding on small worms, slugs and insects.

The areas of Bell heather flowers give a welcome splash of colour amongst the grassland and provide a food source for insects. By the end of summer hopefully the small group of cattle grazing the Common have done their work and kept the brambles and other scrub at bay for another year.

During late summer the birdlife tends to more subdued as the adult birds use this quiet time after breeding to moult into a new coat of feathers and during this time they tend to be less active.  The foreshore is also very quiet at this time of year until the Oystercatchers, Curlews, Redshanks and Brent geese return from their breeding grounds.  But at high tide if you look offshore you might be rewarded with the sight of Terns fishing in the calm water between the spit and the oil terminal jetty.