June 2016: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings

30 June 2016
June 2016: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings
American Golden Plover

This month saw a couple of real avian rarities recorded, both for the first time. The first of these was an American golden plover which was present on Flat Beach on at least the 3rd-5th June. This species breeds in northern Canada and Alaska and winters in South America but in the UK occurs as an annual vagrant in small numbers. However, the ‘main event’ came on the 17th June when an unusual warbler was found near the wood, just off the reserve. After much discussion between reserve staff and various knowledgeable parties (including a Polish birder!) it was identified as Blyth’s reed warbler another UK vagrant and only the second Sussex record!

Our black-headed gulls seem to have had a good year with many of the earliest chicks now fully fledged, while the first fledged Mediterranean gull was present on Ternery on the 23rd. After a promising start, however, the Sandwich terns seem to have had a poor season with few chicks surviving. At least 16 pairs of little tern nested on Flat Beach this year, an increase over the last few years, producing their first chicks later in the month. Oystercatchers have had a productive year, with many broods hatching on Flat Beach, while at least one brood of little ringed plover was present on Harbour Farm during the month. Survival rate for avocet chicks from the 62 nesting pairs has been low this year, perhaps due to bad weather during the main hatching period, but at least some birds have manged to fledge, while both redshank and lapwing have done very poorly. Passage waders during the month included small numbers of ruff, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, knot and dunlin, with the highlight being four wood sandpiper behind Ternery Pool on the 27th. Other notable birds during May included booming bittern at Castle Water, SEVEN spoonbill on the new saltmarsh on the 30th and a roseate tern on the Quarry on the 10th.

As well as the resident marsh harrier raptors included two hobby on the 19th and regular peregrine over the Beach Reserve (and occasionally Castle Water), while owls included barn owl on Harbour Farm and at Castle Water and a short-eared owl on Harbour Farm on 7th and 23rd. Passerines during May included at least 300 swift over the Beach Reserve on the 17th, small numbers of swallow and house martin over Harbour Farm and Castle Water on the 2nd and 3rd, at least two singing corn bunting still at the western end of the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm and the first of this years fledged wheatear with a brood of three at Ternery Pool seen from the 10th. In addition a nuthatch in the trees at the Rye Harbour entrance to the reserve was something of a surprise and the first record here since 2002!

Catches in the Lime Kiln Cottage moth trap were still low for the time of the year, though with some good records. Rarities included five-spot ermel, star-wort, shore wainscot and saltmarsh grass veneer, while an influx of the migrant micro diamond-back moth early in the month saw over almost 300 individuals recorded on the 5th, the largest total for a single night ever on the reserve. Butterfly recorded during may included marbled white (above), brown argus and large skipper, while probable migrants included several painted lady and a clouded yellow at Castle Water on the 27th. Other notable invertebrates during the month included long-horned general soldier fly and brown-banded carder bee at Castle Water on the 5th, the tortoise beetle Cassida nobilis on the saltmarsh on the 10th and the rare jumping spider Pellenes tripunctatus on the Beach Reserve on the 7th. Plants in flower included bee, common-spotted and pyramidal orchids, sea pea, sea spurge, sea heath, sea campion, sea kale, grass (below) and meadow vetchlings and carpets of ivy-leaved toadflax.