Easterly winds for much of the early part of the month resulted in a real bonanza of rare birds during May. The first of these was a Terek sandpiper on Harbour Farm on the 18th/19th (along with curlew sandpiper), the third reserve record, while even better was a broad-billed sandpiper present briefly on Harbour Farm on the 24th. This tiny wader breeds in northern Europe and Siberia and winters in Africa and this is only the eighth Sussex record and the third record for the reserve! We have also had several sightings of black-winged stilt on the farm, with three seen on the 26th, Temminck’s stint on the Quarry on the 11th, spotted redshank on Flat Beach on the 22nd, up to three spoonbill (below) and a host of other migrants including little gull, black tern, ruff, knot, greenshank, black and bar-tailed godwit, common sandpiper, and grey plover! Phew!
For our breeding birds the season really got going during May. On Ternery Pool around 1200 pairs of black-headed gull nested, with many larger chicks nearing fledging by the end of the month, sharing the islands with roughly 300 Sandwich Tern, 70 Mediterranean gull (our best breeding numbers for several years) and around 110 common tern, though most of these are on the Quarry. On the Beach Reserve, around eight pairs of little tern were sitting by the end of the month, though the season seems to be rather late for this our smallest breeding tern and they appear to be struggling to find food, an issue which will probably effect the larger terns as well. Waders included around 30 pairs of oystercatcher and ringed plover, the first chicks of the latter appearing late in the month, two or three pairs of little ringed plover, but only round 10 pairs of lapwing another poor showing for this species. In addition, wheatear appear to be having a reasonable year, with seven or eight pairs on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm, one or two corn bunting were singing on Castle Farm mid-month and at least five cuckoo could be heard calling.
Little in the way of interesting moths during May, though there were a few records of the scarce micro bordered ermel and several species new for the year including small elephant hawkmoth, swallow prominent, muslin moth and sharp-angled peacock. Butterflies during May included common blue, small heath and migrants such as red admiral, clouded yellow and painted lady, while dragonfly counts turned up variable damselfly and hairy hawker, both uncommon species which do quite well here. Other notable invertebrates during May included the rare spider Pellenes tripunctatus, the rare beetle Dibolia cynoglossi (below) and the BAP brown-banded carder bee, with almost 20 queens of the latter on a bumblebee count on the 28th! Plants in flower included sea pea, sea kale, yellow horned-poppy, viper’s bugloss, fenugreek, twayblade and common spotted and bee orchid.