A sure sign of the advancing year is the first appearance of the flowers of Common Whitlowgrass on Camber Castle (which this year came on the 24th January). This early-flowering annual plant is not a grass at all but is in fact a member of the cabbage family, with tiny four-petalled flowers and a rosette of lobed slightly hairy leaves. The English name of this species come from its use as an herbal treatment for ‘whitlows’, swellings caused by a viral infection of the fingers or toes (an alternative name is ‘nailwort’ which probably has a similar origin).
Wader highlights during January were probably Spotted Redshank which was seen on Flat Beach on several dates during the month and a Jack Snipe at Castle Water on the 12th, while an Avocet in the Rother on the 7th was a sign of things to come! Numbers were provided by Lapwing (450+ on the 17th), Dunlin (270+ on the same date) and Curlew (150+ coming in to roost on Harbour Farm on the 11th). Notable waterfowl during January included regular Great White Egret, with at least five leaving the Castle Water roost late in the month, up to four Goldeneye on Harbour Farm and several flocks of White-fronted Goose (above) including 47 over the Beach Reserve on the 1st. In addition, at least one, and probably two Spoonbill (below) were seen regularly during the month, either on the Beach Reserve/Harbour Farm or at Castle Water. There were also some high counts of species such as Shoveler, with several counts of over 100 and a maximum of 154 at
Castle Water on the 3rd, and Pintail with a peak count of 32 on Flat Beach Level on the 24th. There seemed to a lot of activity offshore this month, with lots of movement going on! A ‘sea watch’ on the 31st for instance found 145 Wigeon, 65 each of Great-crested Grebe and Red-throated Diver, 50+ Common Scoter, 37 Gannet (below), six Kittiwake and a Mediterranean Gull (the first of the year). In addition, around 300 Cormorant were recorded, though this number was dwarfed by a count of 1466 coming in to roost at Castle Water later on in the same day! Raptors during January included regular Buzzard and Marsh Harrier (with three on the 25th), up to two Peregrine on Camber Castle and Merlin on several dates.
Passerines included the long-staying Shorelark which was present on the Beach Reserve up until at least the 24th (when it was accompanied by around 30 Skylark) while a Black Redstart was present in Rye Harbour Village on the 3rd and there were several sightings of Fieldfare with a maximum of 40+ on Harbour Farm on the 11th. A flock of 12 Greenfinch was also present at the river mouth throughout.
It was still too cold in general even for early invertebrates during January, though a Mouse Spider (below) which was rescued from the sink in the temporary cabins did turn out to be a new species for the reserve!