Bird highlight during May was at least one Temminck’s stint which was present on Harbour Farm on the 1st and 7th. This tiny migrant wader breeds mainly in the Arctic (though there are a few sites in Scotland) and usually occurs in the UK during the passage seasons in spring and autumn. At Rye Harbour it has been more or less annual in recent years, but only ever in small numbers, with a maximum of three in 1987. Temminck’s stint is named for the 19th century Dutch zoologist, Coenraad Jacob Temminck, one of over 50 species, including around 17 birds, named after this prolific naturalist!
After a slow start our breeding seabirds caught up somewhat in May, with at least 1400 pairs of black-headed gull on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm (with the first chicks on the 21st) and 90 pairs of Sandwich tern on Ternery Pool, while on Flat Beach 15 pairs of little tern had begun to nest by the end of the month and about 150 pairs of common tern were present on the Beach Reserve. In addition, 2-3 pairs of Mediterranean gull nested on Ternery Pool, along with two pairs of common gull. Many species produced their first chicks of the year, including avocet, redshank, oystercatcher, ringed plover and wheatear. The latter are having their best breeding season for several years with around 10 pairs on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm. There were also still a few migrants around during the month. A good range of waders
included 51 grey plover, 42 whimbrel and 23 black-tailed godwit as well as small numbers of ruff, common sandpiper, green sandpiper and a wood sandpiper (11th), a curlew sandpiper on Flat Beach the 9th and a little stint there on the 19th, while waterfowl included the long-staying red-breasted merganser and several sightings of spoonbill. (above). In addition, a roseate tern was heard over the Beach Reserve on the 22nd. Raptors, as well as the usual suspects such as marsh harrier, peregrine and buzzard, included the first hobby of the year, with regular sightings throughout the month. Rather quiet on the passerine front, though there was an influx of hirundines at Castle Water early in the month including around 50 sand martin, 30 swallow and small numbers of house martin, joined by about 30 swift, while cuckoo were seen and heard regularly. Highlights were a grasshopper warbler singing at Castle Water from 11th and on the 6th, a corn bunting on Harbour Farm and a spotted flycatcher on the Beach Reserve.
Invertebrate highlights during May were several records of the rare whelk-jumping spider on the Beach Reserve and queens of red-shanked carder bee and brown-banded carder bee on Harbour Farm, while great silver water beetle, star-wort and peach blossom, this less than annual on the reserve, were taken in the moth trap at Lime Kiln Cottage. Dragonflies included several sightings of hairy hawker and downy emerald, with the first records for emperor dragonfly late in the month. Notable among the mammal records were Nathusius pipistrelle, water vole at Castle Water and brown hare on Castle Farm. Plants in flower included sea pea, yellow-horned poppy, viper’s bugloss, thrift, bee and common spotted orchids.