Turtle Dove is becoming an increasingly rare bird on the reserve (and indeed nationally), so it was good to get the first reserve record for 2019 from Castle Farm on the 1st. This species is the UKs only migrant pigeon or dove and has undergone a 91% decline in the UK since 1995. It is now included on the Red List of conservation concern. The main cause of this decline is likely the reduction in the amount of seed available during the breeding season due to increased agricultural efficiency, though other factors, such as hunting pressure in southern Europe and the effects of trichomonosis (a disease caused by a single-celled parasite better known for its effect on finch populations), may also play a part. The name of this species derives from its purring ‘turr-turr’ call (also reflected in its scientific name Streptopelia turtur).
While our Black-headed Gull seem to be having a reasonable year, this is unfortunately not the case for our remaining seabirds! Out of 320 pairs of Sandwich Tern, only one was still nesting by the end of June, the rest having failed over a short period of time early in the month. Similarly around 20 pairs of Mediterranean Gull had largely disappeared by this time. Our Little Tern initially attempted to nest within the electric fence on Flat Beach, but the attentions of predators forced them to move to two sites on the shore ridges, where perhaps 10 pairs nested. However, as was the case last year they did not do well here and only one or two pairs were still active by the end of the month. Around 40 pairs of Common Tern produced good numbers of chicks, though many of these were predated by marauding Herring Gulls. On a brighter note, this month saw confirmation of breeding Little Egret on the reserve, with a pair producing two chicks (almost fledged by the end of the month) in the Cormorant colony at Castle Water, the first time this has occurred at Rye Harbour! There were also further sightings of Garganey at Castle Water, with two males suggesting breeding probably occurred locally and Shoveler and Pochard were both seen with ducklings there. While it is still early in the season, June did see some obvious migrants on the reserve. Waders included small numbers of Dunlin, Sanderling, Curlew, Grey Plovers, Bar- and Black-tailed Godwits, Snipe and Common Sandpiper. This month also saw the first returning Sand Martin, with small numbers later in the month. We also had another Spoonbill, with one on Harbour Farm on the 5th.
Moths in the Watch Cottage trap included Rosy-streaked Knothorn, Five-spot Ermel, Bordered Ermel, Cream-bordered Green Pea and Eyed Hawk-moth (above), while the moth trap also turned up the first reserve record for the Spot-winged Little Snailkiller fly on the 24th and, less welcome, a Harlequin Ladybird on the same date. This month also saw the first records for 2019 of the rare Large-headed Resin Bee at Watch Cottage and of Marbled White near the viewpoint. Plants in flower during June included Stinking Hawksbeard, Rough Clover, Grass Vetchling, Biting Stonecrop and Common Spotted, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids.