Wildlife - Birds
We are very lucky to have a wide range of over 40 species of bird visitors. The surface of the Pond and the rafts are host to large numbers of water birds; mainly gulls, coots, cormorants and ducks. Black-headed gulls dominate, but all the British species of gull can be seen at times with occasional visits from Mediterranean gulls.
Most of the ducks are mallards, which breed on the pond, with tufted ducks and red-breasted mergansers as regular winter visitors and the occasional smew, goldeneye, pochard, shoveller duck and Canada goose.
Coots breed on the rafts and moorhen breed in Dolphin Creek. Dabchicks (Little Grebe) are mainly seen in winter. Of the birds which can be seen in the air, Kingfishers regularly add a special element of colour.
Mute swans breed frequently on Peter Pond and can be seen during summer and autumn with their cygnets. Heron and Little Egrets can be seen standing in the shallows. Reed Warblers are audible during summer in the reed-beds.
A pair of Great Black-Backed Gulls (known as GBBGs) has been nesting on one of the rafts since 2012, producing 2-3 chicks a year. This has caused great concern as they are predators at the head of the food chain and are held responsible for the decline in the overall sea bird population. A history of their presence on the Pond can be found on Brian Fellows' website.
At the 2012 AGM we agreed to attempt to deter them by installing wires and canes on the rafts, but this was unsuccessful for 3 years and therefore the wires and canes were removed. At the 2020 AGM it was again voted to have another attempt. Metal frames and netting were installed on all 3 rafts. More details at the foot of this page.
We are unable to do any more without violating the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Sadly the presence of the Great Black Backed Gulls has reduced the number of other birds visiting the pond.
Regular Visitors (16)
Black-headed Gull - all year. Up to 2000 in winter
Common Gull - winter - up to 50
Common Tern - summer
Coot - Up to 90 in winter - 3 pairs nest
Cormorant - winter - up to 13
Great Black-backed Gull - winter - nesting since April 2012
Herring Gull - winter - up to 50
Kingfisher - mainly winter
Lesser Black-backed Gull - winter
Little Egret - Up to 2
Little Grebe - Winter - Up to 4
Mallard - Up to 50 - Occasionally nesting
Moorhen - Nest in Dolphin Lake
Mute Swan - Pairs occasionally nest
Reed Warbler - summer
Swallow - summer
SMPPA Notelets (above) - taken from a painting by Marian Forster - illustrate the variety of birds that have been seen on our pond (notelets available for purchase - see our publications page)
Occasional Visitors (30)
Great Crested Grebe - winter
Great Northern Diver
Bird Rafts and the Great Black-Backed Gulls
A pair of Great Black-Backed Gulls ("GBBGs") has been nesting on one of the Pond rafts since 2012, producing 2-3 chicks a year. This year there have been at least 5 GBBGs regularly visiting the Pond. This has caused great concern as they are predators at the head of the food chain and, year after year, we have watched them devour any young birds and eggs as they arrive during the spring breeding season. It is believed that the presence of these birds has also reduced the number of other birds visiting the pond.
At the 2012 SMPPA AGM it was agreed to attempt to deter them by installing wires and canes on the rafts, but this was unsuccessful for 3 years and therefore the wires and canes were removed. Last year, as a result of strong feedback from members, at the 2020 AGM it was again voted by a considerable majority to have another attempt (rather than remove the rafts altogether).
We consulted with the Hampshire Ornithological Society (HOS), who were sympathetic to our situation, citing a similar problem at Needs Ore where the GBBGs have wiped out the local Avocet population. They advised us against netting as this can cause issues with entanglement and may do more harm than good, so we proposed an open mesh wire fence construction as likely to both deter the GBBGs, while still allowing other smaller birds to nest on the rafts.
Frames and netting were installed on all 3 rafts early in 2021. Smaller birds such as Ducks and Coots can easily access the rafts and bird boxes and have laid several eggs. Other birds are still able to perch on the rafts and on the new perches that we have erected instead of the old signs in the Pond.
The GBBGs were deterred by the frames and netting at first, however they are extremely determined birds and eventually managed to access the middle raft and produce 3 chicks. Sadly, as also occurred in 2015, it appears that the chicks fell off the raft and drowned as they were unable to get back on due to the height of the raft above the water.
We will not be able to do anything more to the rafts until the autumn as we must not disturb the wildlife during the breeding season, but will continue to monitor the situation, in consultation with wildlife organisations and our Members.
Mediterranean Gull - winter
Red-breasted Merganser - winter
Sandwich Tern - summer
Tufted Duck - winter