May saw the first records of the very rare whelk jumping spider (Pellenes tripunctatus) on the reserve for 2019. In the UK this species is only found on three sites, with the first Rye Harbour record in 2011 at the eastern end of the Beach Reserve. Since then it has been found at several other sites on the Beach Reserve, particularly seeming to like the rabbit exclosures south of the Denny Hide. Females of this species construct their egg sacs inside egg shells, and young spiders also use them to see out the winter, hence their English name. An alternative name for this species is three-spotted jumping spider due to the three white spots on the abdomen (tripunctatus literally means ‘three-spotted’).
May is usually a busy month for our breeding birds and this year was no exception. On the Beach Reserve, around 1000 pairs of black-headed gull (below), 50 pairs of Mediterranean gull and 320 pairs of Sandwich tern did well for most of the month and by late May the colony was alive with chicks. However, issues with food availability and perhaps predation (particularly at Ternery Pool) saw numbers drop of considerably later in the month, with the Sandwich terns coming off particularly badly. Also on the Beach Reserve, up to seven pairs of little tern were present on Flat Beach from mid-month, though only two nests (on the Shore Ridges) were still sitting by the end of the month. Our ringed plover also seemed to be having a poor time during May, though many pairs re-laid and will hopefully have more success. This month also saw the first fledged wheatear on the Beach Reserve late in the month, and around 40 pairs of avocet (above) produced their first chicks. In addition, several sightings of garganey at Castle Water suggested they may be breeding there
this year. There were still a few migrants, particularly during the first half of May, including knot, grey plover, black-tailed and bar-tailed godwit, common sandpiper, greenshank and whimbrel. The first hobby of the year were seen at Castle Water and the Beach Reserve on the 5th, up to two little gull were present at Castle Water and on the Beach Reserve mid-month and a spoonbill was on Harbour Farm on the 9th. Raptors included regular sightings of marsh harrier and the occasional buzzard at Castle and several hobby both here and on the Beach Reserve. In addition, a short-eared owl was spotted over the Beach Reserve on the 25th. Passerines included regular cuckoo, several sightings of raven, with three over Castle Farm on the 21st (probably from the successful nesting on the Castle this year), regular wheatear on the Beach Reserve and bearded tit at Castle Water on the 5th. Also this month, singing corn bunting, yellow wagtail and 70+ linnet on Castle Farm on the 21st and a purring turtle dove on the plots of land just to the east of Castle Farm on the 22nd.
Butterflies during May included orange-tip, brown argus, holly blue and common blue, while notable moths included bordered ermel, light feathered rustic and narrow-winged grey (and a great silver water beetle turned up on the 22nd). In addition, a search for rare spiders on the 25th found the ‘jumpers’ Pellenes tripunctatus and Phlegra fasciata (above) and the uncommon ground-spider Haplodrassus dalmatensis on the Beach Reserve. Plants in flower included viper’s bugloss, yellow horned-poppy (below), sea pea, English stonecrop and bee orchid.