March 2019 - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings

March 2019 - Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings
Alan Vernon

Bird highlight during March was a splendid male ring-necked duck initially seen at Castle Water on the 27th and recorded on several occasions up until the end of the month. Since the first UK record in 1955 this North American vagrant has become a regular visitor, with between 10 and 100 individuals recorded each year, though this is only the second Rye Harbour record, with the first in 1997. Both the English name and specific name collaris refer to a thin, and very difficult to see, ring of cinnamon feathers present around the throat in the male, and this species was almost renamed ‘ring-billed duck’ in reference to the clear white ring around the beak, in 2017.


With the advancing year, the large numbers of waders which are a feature on the reserve during the winter months have largely melted away as birds leave for their breeding grounds. Curlew roost counts peaked at 98 late in the month, while the large winter lapwing flocks have gone leaving only breeding birds. Joining them are our avocet, numbers of which rose rapidly during the latter part of the month, with 71 recorded on Harbour Farm on the 24th. Migrant waders included numerous dunlin, six knot on Flat Beach on the 20th, 20 sanderling on the shore on the 23rd, single ruff on Harbour Farm on the 18th and 19th and a grey plover on Harbour Farm on the 19th. Waterfowl during March included the first booming bittern of the year at Castle Water on the 17th, four cattle egret on Castle Farm on the 3rd, a spoonbill (above) on Harbour Farm on the 17th and up to three black-necked grebe on Long Pit and Ternery Pool. In addition, great white egret  were present at Castle Water on the 28th and 31st and two garganey on Harbour Farm and the Beach Reserve towards the end of the month. Seabird numbers increased throughout the month as birds girded themselves for the breeding season, with up to 424 black-headed gull. 85 Mediterranean gull and 110 Sandwich tern recorded towards the end of the month on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm. In addition, the first common tern of the year was seen at Castle Water on the 31st (along with an adult little gull) while a yellow-legged gull was spotted on the Beach Reserve on the 18th, only the third reserve record. At Castle Water raptors included marsh harrier and two peregrine on Camber Castle on the 28th, with several sightings of merlin on Harbour Farm late in the month. In addition, a barn owl was present at Castle Water on the 17th. Passerines included the three long-staying twite, on Flat Beach up to the 20th, and on the 17th two raven on Camber Castle and the first wheatear on the Beach Reserve. In addition, a swallow was seen at Castle Water on the 28th and both blackcap and chiffchaff were singing near the viewpoint late in the month.


The Rye Harbour moth trap (now at Watch Cottage) produced relatively few species during March, with the highlights being oak beauty, pine beauty (only the fourth reserve record), powdered Quaker, and two male great silver water beetle on the 26th. At Castle Water, the sandy areas to the north produced some good bees, with grey-backed mining bee, spring colletes (above) and gold-fringed mason bee the best of the bunch, while a small sallow mining bee on the 31st was the first record here for over 20 years! Bumblebees, in contrast had a bit of a slow start with only buff-tailed bumblebee and red-tailed bumblebee queens recorded during the month. Plants in flower included early forget-me-not, wallflower, doves-foot cranesbill, common storksbill, Danish scurvygrass (below) and sloe.


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