Shoveler is a common winter bird at Rye Harbour and perhaps one of our most important species, often occurring in nationally significant numbers (the UK threshold of importance for this species is 148).This is one of the most distinctive of ducks with its huge bill and striking males with their iridescent dark green head, white breast, chestnut belly and flanks and in flight, pale blue forewings. The bill itself is fringed internally with a ‘comb’ used to sieve small invertebrates from the water, and shoveler can often be seen sweeping their bills backwards and forwards as they feed. This feeding action presumably gives this species its English name, while the scientific name Anas clypeata literally means ‘shield-bearing duck ’, perhaps in reference to its oversized bill!
Some good counts of waders on the reserve during January, with the bulk of the numbers still provided by golden plover (with 450 on Ternery Pool on the 21st) and curlew (310 on Harbour Farm on the 24th), while lapwing numbers were somewhat lower than of late, with a peak count of only 170 on Ternery Pool on the 21st.Other notable counts during the month included 210 dunlin on Flat Beach Level on the 27th and 102 knot on the shore on the 5th, while other records during January included up to 32 snipe (above), 23 sanderling and 21 grey plover. Still large numbers of wigeon on the reserve, with a maximum of 1750+ on Flat Beach on the 5th. In addition, up to 122 shoveler were on Ternery pool on the 23rd, 21 pintail on Harbour Farm on the 15th and up to four goldeneye on Harbour Farm and Long Pit throughout. Highlights during January included red-breasted merganser on Flat Beach up to the 3rd, the long-staying black-necked grebe on Ternery Pool throughout, bittern at Castle Water on the 5th and 19th and a Bewick’s swan on Harbour Farm on the 2nd. At Castle Water raptors during the month included regular marsh harrier, with three on the 5th, buzzard on the 5th and 20th, peregrine on the 20th and merlin on the 9th, while barn owl were present on Harbour Farm on the 19th and 23rd. Passerine sightings during January included regular kingfisher (below) on Harbour Farm, with up to two birds present on Nook Drain near the caravan park and several wintering stonechat pairs at various places on the reserve, while at Castle Water, one or two bearded tit were heard from the viewpoint on the 3rd and 9th. In addition, raven were seen on the Beach Reserve on the 2nd (three) and on Harbour Farm on the 4th and a male bullfinch was at Castle Water Hide on the 3rd.
Image: Andreas Trepte
Despite the often bitterly cold conditions during January there were still some tantalising early signs of spring on the reserve, with several honey bee recorded at Lime Kiln Cottage on the 8th and a few flowering spikes of white dead-nettle on the Beach Reserve on the 10th.