Wildlife highlight during April was the discovery of a small colony of grey-backed mining bee (Andrena vaga) at Castle Water by local photographer and bee enthusiast Peter Greenhalf on 3rd April. This species is widespread in Europe, but until recently was very rare in the UK, with up until 2014, just a handful of pre-1950 records. In that year however it was found in Kent (at Dungeness) and in Hampshire, and since then has turned up in Tunbridge Wells, though the Castle Water record appears to be the first for Sussex, at least in modern times.
Waders during April included small flocks of curlew and dunlin, small numbers of snipe and knot and the occasional greenshank, golden plover and green sandpiper. The first whimbrel of the year was seen on the 9th, with numbers peaking at 33 on the Beach Reserve on the 29th, while up to 14 bar-tailed godwit were present during the month and a spotted redshank on the 26th. By the end of April, our breeding waders had already set up territories, most notable among these being perhaps 40 or so pairs of avocet (though past experience suggests that this number will increase) and perhaps four or five pairs of little ringed plover scattered around the reserve. Notable waterfowl included booming bittern, garganey on Harbour Farm on the 18th (two) and at Castle Water on the 25th, and the long-staying red-breasted merganser on Harbour Farm to mid-month, while a little gull was at Castle Water on the 1st and an Arctic skua offshore on the 17th. One of the most disappointing aspects of spring so far has been the almost total failure of our early nesting black-headed gull colony. This species is heavily reliant on worms during the spring, but the long period
of dry weather has meant that these have not been available. Consequently the gulls have been in poor condition reducing their ability to defend against marauding herring gull and hatching success so far has been very poor. There were however, still good numbers of Sandwich tern, with 250 on Flat Beach on the 10th, while the first little tern were recorded on the 9th and the first common tern on the 7th, with maxima of 12 and 130 respectively recorded on the Beach Reserve on the 12th. Raptors included up to three marsh harrier pair at Castle Water, regular buzzard and the occasional peregrine, while the first hobby of the year was seen at Castle Water on the 27th. There were also occasional sightings of barn owl on Harbour Farm. Passerines during April included up to 30 house martin, 30 swallow and 20 sand martin at Castle Water on the 27th, while 22 swift were over the Beach Reserve on the 29th.This month also saw an influx of warblers, with blackcap, chiffchaff, sedge warbler (above), reed warbler, whitethroat and lesser whitethroat all singing by the end of the month. The first cuckoo of the year was seen on the Beach Reserve on the 20th Farm, while small numbers of wheatear and yellow wagtail were also recorded. In addition, single whinchat were seen at Castle Water on the 17th and on Harbour Farm on the 20th.
Catches in the moth trap at Lime Kiln Cottage were still very poor during April, with only a handful of species caught, most of these typical early spring fare such as Hebrew character, shuttle-shaped dart and pebble prominent. However, the trap did turn up an oblique-striped on the 24th, an early date for this uncommon species, and a migrant dark sword-grass on the 11th. April also saw the first records of dragonflies and damselflies for the year, with large red damselfly, azure damselfly, blue-tailed damselfly, hairy hawker and downy emerald all active by the end of the month, while butterflies included orange-tip, holly blue, speckled wood and small copper. Bumblebee highlights were brown-banded carder bee, large garden bumblebee and red-shanked carder bee (below) on the Beach Reserve on the 12th. Plants in flower included yellow rattle, birds-foot trefoil, common vetch, sea campion, ivy-leaved toadflax and sea kale.