A real surprise during August was the sighting of a monarch butterfly on the Beach Reserve briefly on the 4th. This striking insect is probably the largest butterfly recorded in Britain, reaching up to 10cm across, though it is also one of our rarest visitors so rarely seen. Migrants to Britain come from one of two sources: the United States, where this species undertakes huge migrations, from as far as northern Canada down to Mexico, or Southern Europe where there are populations in southern Spain, Portugal the Canary Islands and Madeira. Unfortunately, and just to muddy the waters, there has been a recent fad for releasing them at weddings! At the time this individual was recorded however, there was an influx of southern European migrant moths, suggesting that this was probably a genuine migrant.
The reserve had a definite end of season feel during August, with our Sandwich tern readying themselves for departure and the last of our common tern fledging during the month. Passage movement also picked up, with a wide range of migrant species passing through. For the waders, highlights included six little stint at Castle Water (two) and Harbour Farm (four) on the 13th, wood sandpiper on Harbour Farm on the 4th and 5th, spotted redshank on the Beach Reserve on the 26th and several sightings of curlew sandpiper with 12 at Castle Water on the 24th. Passerines during August included over 250 swift over the Beach Reserve on the 3rd, 800+ sand martin (above) and 120+ swallow on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm respectively on the 26th, 250 yellow wagtail on the Beach Reserve on the 25th, two whinchat at Castle Water on the 7th, 14 wheatear on the Beach Reserve on the 14th and 26th and two raven on several dates, while up to six bearded tit were seen at Castle Water. Other notable avian sightings during August were two spoonbill at Castle Water or Harbour Farm throughout the month, a garganey at Castle Water on the 4th, a red-breasted merganser on Ternery Pool on the 22nd and little gull at Castle Water on the 18th and Harbour Farm on the 22nd (four). Raptors included regular sightings of marsh harrier at Castle Water and on Harbour Farm and peregrine at Castle Water on the 1st and 7th, while there were several sightings of barn owl over Harbour Farm and a little owl was present on the Beach Reserve on the 11th.
As with the birds, migrants insects were a real feature this month, with a good range of species and a couple of absolute stonkers thrown in for good measure! Moths included hummingbird hawk moth, dark sword-grass and scarce bordered straw, this latter less than annual on the reserve with only a handful of records in the last 20 years, while butterflies included a few painted lady and red admiral and migrant hoverflies included hornet hoverfly and pied hoverfly. The absolute cream of the crop however were the monarch and a beautiful marbled (below) in the Lime Kiln moth trap on the at Lime Kiln Cottage on the 14th, the first reserve record for this striking moth and only the fifth Sussex record. Plants in flower included red hemp-nettle, sea pea, sea heath, common centaury and viper’s bugloss.