Despite the often cold weather during March, there were definitely signs of spring in the air at Rye Harbour. At Ternery Pool numbers of Sandwich Tern increased to 190 birds during the month, while the reserve saw increasing numbers of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls. Unfavourable winds for much of March meant that numbers of the smaller spring migrants were limited, though a Sand Martin was at Castle Water on the 18th, a Wheatear on the Beach Reserve on the 26th and a Swallow over Harbour Farm on the 29th, and both Chiffchaff and Blackcap sang for the first time. In addition, a Little Ringed Plover from the 6th equalled the earliest ever in Sussex. A couple of fine days at the end of the month resulted in the first Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Garganey and calling Marsh Frog.
121 Sandwich Terns roosting at Ternery Pool 28th March
There was still a wintery feel to the waders and waterfowl for much of the month! Small numbers of Goldeneye were present on the reserve for most of the month, a maximum of 650 Golden Plover were seen on Flat Beach, including some in breeding plumage, and there were several sightings of White-fronted Goose, with a maximum of 21 on the 7th. There were still good numbers of Wigeon present too, with a count of over 500 on the 14th. Notable Waterfowl included two Black-necked Grebe which were present between 16th and 25th and a Cattle Egret which was present briefly on Castle Farm on the 23rd. In addition, the long-staying juvenile Spoonbill was present throughout the month and was joined briefly by four adults on the 4th.
Adult Spoonbills by James Tomlinson
Raptors included the usual suspects, with multiple sightings of Marsh Harrier and Buzzard and Peregrine. The highlight was Red Kite, with sightings at Castle Water on the 14th and 25th. Passerines this month included several Rock Pipit some of which were the Scandinavian race, while a Black Redstart was present on Harbour Farm early in the month and small groups of Bearded Tit was present at Castle Water. In addition, a Lesser Redpoll was present on the Beach Reserve on the 20th and a Jay was seen on the 1st at Castle Water. Surprisingly, after an absence of several weeks, the Shore Lark was again present on the Beach Reserve on the 19th and 20th.
March saw our first forays into moth trapping this year, though the generally cold evening meant catches were limited to a couple each of Hebrew Character and Small Quaker and singles of Early Grey, Clouded Drab and Oak Beauty. However, a Minotaur Beetle on the 30th was a pleasant surprise. At Castle Water several species of early solitary bee were active, including Clarke’s Mining Bee, Trimmers Mining Bee and Small Sallow Mining Bee, with the highlight our ever growing colony of the rare Spring Colletes, with counts numbering several hundred individuals. This month also saw the first record this year for Common Bee Fly and the uncommon dung fly Norellia spinipes. Plants in flower included Blackthorn, Cherry Plum, Grey Willow, Early Forget-me-not, Danish Scurvygrass, Common Whitlowgrass, Common Stork’sbill, Coltsfoot, Dandelion and Ground-ivy.