One sure sign of spring on the reserve is the appearance of the tiny mauve flowers of Danish scurvy grass. This member of the cabbage family is traditionally a coastal plant in the UK, though in the last 50 years it has increasingly colonised roadside verges where its ability to tolerate salt, very useful in a seashore plant, has meant it can withstand the conditions caused by gritting. A recent survey by Plantlife has shown that in the last 50 years this species has colonised more new areas than any other British plant! In addition, the leaves of this plant are packed with vitamin C, and in the past were eaten by sailors to fend off scurvy, hence its common name.
Still a few more typically winter species around during the month, with small numbers of winter ducks such as teal and wigeon present around the reserve, the long-staying red-breasted merganser on Ternery Pool on the 23rd, black-necked grebe on Long Pit on the 12th, two merlin on the 23rd and short-eared owl on the 18th and 21st. A good selection of waders included up to 350 dunlin, 115 curlew, 104 golden plover and 55 knot, with notable records including 56 ruff on Harbour Farm on the 2nd and several sightings of jack snipe, including two on the Beach Reserve on the 2nd and Harbour Farm on the 17th. Obvious passage migrants included a flush of Brent goose during the month, with a maximum of 340 over the sea on the 18th.
However, the really exciting thing about March is the increasing presence of our breeding species. Avocet numbers built steadily during March, with a maximum of 98 on the Beach Reserve on the 21st, while the first little ringed plover of the year was present on Harbour Farm on the 25th. Lapwing numbers were still relatively high at the start of the month, with 220 at Ternery Pool on the 2nd, but by the end most birds had dispersed leaving just our breeding population, and many of our breeding waders, such as oystercatcher, ringed plover and redshank, could be heard and seen displaying by the end of the month. On Ternery Pool, gull numbers showed a sharp increase from the end of February, with 150 Mediterranean gull and over 1000 black-headed gull present on the 10th, while the first Sandwich tern of the year were seen here on the 7th with a maximum of 300 on the 23rd.
At Castle Water, our resident bittern began ‘booming’ early on in the month and continued throughout, while bearded tit became increasingly active with a maximum of 10 birds present on the 23rd, and up to four marsh harrier were present on the 24th. By the end of the month we had seen the first of some of our breeding passerines, with the first sedge warbler on Harbour Farm on the 25th, and a fall of migrant chiffchaff on the shore ridges on the 3rd. The first wheatear of the year was at Ternery Pool on the 7th and up to five were present around the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm by the end of the month. With these came a few passage migrants, including a black redstart at the river mouth on the 7th and three firecrest at Castle Water on the 23rd and 24th.
The Lime Kiln moth trap produced relatively few species this month, with small Quaker, common Quaker, early grey, Hebrew character, double-striped pug and early thorn the only moths recorded, though we did have our first great silver water beetle on the 16th. Other invertebrate sightings included buff-tailed and garden bumblebee, peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell butterflies, common green shield bug and the spring hoverfly Cheilosia grossa. Plants in flower included Danish scurvygrass, blackthorn, red dead-nettle, colt’sfoot, white dead-nettle, grey willow and on Camber Castle wallflowers.