Two rare birds from November hung on throughout December, providing a bit of avian Christmas cheer for local birdwatchers! The Shore Lark was seen several times either immediately to the south of the Gooders Hide on Flat Beach, near the Red-roofed Hut or even at the River Mouth feeding on seed with flocks of Skylark or Greenfinch, though it was often elusive, while the Spoonbill was usually found at various points around Harbour Farm.
A Slavonian Grebe on the 6th at the Salt Pool stayed until 18th. Two White-fronted Geese on the 2nd were the forerunners of an influx from Russia into southern England and flocks of up to 59 were seen on the reserve. Some good duck numbers include 155+ Shoveler at Castle Water on 26th and around a hundred each of Teal and Gadwall. Wigeon were yet again the most abundant species (with over 700 recorded on the 13th), favouring the saline waters of the south part of the reserve where they often associated with the large flocks of Coot feeding on aquatic plants. A drake Goldeneye and up to 4 redheads were regular at the Barn pools, while there were regular sightings of Great White Egret with five coming to roost at Castle Water on the 28th..
Waders were present in good numbers during the month, with Flat Beach holding the bulk, especially at high tide. It’s where thousands of Golden Plover and Lapwing could be seen one day, but then not the next! Peak counts included 400 Dunlin, 90 Ringed Plover, 35 Grey Plover and 30 Knot, while two Spotted Redshank were here on 22nd, with singles recorded on several dates after this either here or on the new saltmarsh. In addition, a couple of the two species of godwit were around all month, the Bar-tailed on the shore and roosting at high tide with the many Oystercatchers, while the Black-tailed Godwit were at Castle Farm and Water. On the shore 86 Sanderling were roosting on 12th. In the evenings good numbers of Curlew would arrive to roost at a few locations along Rye Harbour farm, with a peak count of 168 on the 9th.
Firecrest were noted at the beginning and end of the month in scrub and near the river mouth and up to 12 Greenfinch were present feeding on Sea Kale seeds. There were also small numbers of Goldcrest, Rock Pipit and Stonechat seen, while small flocks of Skylark were present on the new saltmarsh and regular Raven were seen. Several small flocks of Fieldfare were noted during the month, though the peak count was of 250+ birds at Castle Water on the 17th, while a flock of 100+ Pied Wagtail near Camber Castle on the 26th was notable.
Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine were regular and wide ranging all month, while there was a single record of Merlin on Flat Beach on the 12th. This month also saw singles sightings of both Short-eared Owl and Barn Owl, at Castle Water on the 1st and Harbour Farm on the 9th respectively.
Offshore Gannets were seen each day, but the highest count was of 160 on 9th, while three Red-throated Diver were present on the 13th. At Castle Water during the day there were often large roosts of gulls with up to 680 Great Black-backed, 125 Common and 76 Herring Gulls.
There were few invertebrate records during December though small numbers of the uncommon beetles Brachinus crepitans (Bombardier Beetle) and Polistichus connexus were found under logs on Harbour Farm on the 14th and a Common Darter dragonfly was at the viewpoint on the 18th . The mild weather (until Christmas day) encouraged some late flowering by Ragwort, Daisy, Lesser Periwinkle, Red and White Deadnettles and even some buds of Elder burst into leaf.