August 2019 - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings

August 2019 - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings
Pale Grass Eggar

A feature of the moth trap at this time of the year is the Pale Grass Eggar, a very rare species which in the UK is only found on the shingle of Dungeness and Rye Harbour, where it is not uncommon. The larvae feed on a range of low-growing plants including various grasses and Bramble. In common with related species, the caterpillars are covered in hairs as a defence against predation, though this does not stop them forming an import part of the diet of Cuckoos during May and June. The name ‘eggar’ comes from the egg-shaped cocoon produced by the pupating caterpillar of this and related species.

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August saw a good range of migrant waders on the reserve, including Ruff, Grey Plover, Common and Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Avocet, Snipe, Whimbrel and Little Ringed Plover. Numbers were provided by Dunlin with a maximum of 101 on Flat Beach on the 1st, while the highlights were a Spotted Redshank on the new saltmarsh on the 1st, a Curlew Sandpiper on Flat Beach on the 6th and a Wood Sandpiper on Harbour Farm mid-month. While the breeding season for most of our seabirds was well and truly over, on the Beach Reserve our Common Tern (above) were still soldiering on. While early nesters largely failed due to predation by ‘big’ gulls, later birds did well, producing around 20 fledglings and with several young chicks present at the end of the month. At this time of year, many migrating Sandwich Terns which bred elsewhere in Britain and Europe stop off on the reserve as they head south, and around 1000 were present on the Beach Reserve on the 26th. Migrating passerines during August included good numbers of Swift, Sand Martin and Yellow Wagtail and smaller numbers of Wheatear, with the highlights a Whinchat on Castle Farm on the 13th and a juvenile Cuckoo (below) on Harbour Farm on the 8th. The advancing year saw an increase in the numbers of Starling on the reserve, with a flock of around 1000 present on Harbour Farm late in the month, and it was good to see a regular flock of around 50 House Sparrow, adults and young, here early on. In addition, three White Stork were present over the reserve on the 21st, probably from one of several introduction projects.

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A run of cool evenings meant that it was rather quiet in the reserve moth trap during August, though there were several interesting records, including Bordered Ermel, Wainscot Neb, Hook-tip Grass-veneer, Jersey Tiger and Pale Grass Eggar. The highlight was a Mere Wainscot on the 6th, the first reserve record since 2001. Little in the way of migrant moths during the month, though butterflies included numerous sightings of Painted Lady and even a few Clouded Yellow.  Other notable invertebrates during August included Southern Migrant Hawker, Hornet Hoverfly and Median Wasp (only the second reserve record).  Plants in flower included Lesser Water Plantain (below), Least Lettuce, Slender Hare’s Ear, Hare’s-foot Clover, Water Mint, Knotted Pearlwort and Autumn Ladies Tresses.   

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