Still present on Harbour Farm during November was the long-staying red-breasted merganser which has been around on and off since October last year. This attractive diving duck is one of the ‘sawbills’ (which include goosander and smew among others), so called because of their narrow serrated bill which is just right for catching and holding fish, their main diet. Red-breasted merganser is one of the fastest birds in the world in level flight, and certainly the fastest duck with one being clocked at 100mph (though it was being chased by a plane at the time!). The name merganser is from the Latin and literally means ‘diving goose’!
Increasingly cold weather during the month saw an increase in the numbers of birds on the reserve. Waders included flocks of up to 1000 golden plover on Flat Beach, up to 80 curlew on Harbour Farm, 20+ snipe on the Beach Reserve and smaller numbers of knot, ruff, grey plover, black-tailed godwit and bar-tailed godwit. Similarly there were also some good counts of waterfowl during the month with a Wetland Bird Survey on the 19th, for instance, finding 726 wigeon, 243 teal, 129 shoveler, 118 gadwall, 19 pintail, eight great white egret, four black-necked grebe and the first goldeneye of the winter!
Raptors during the November included regular marsh harrier, occasional sparrowhawk (with two chasing flocking starlings at Castle Water on the 19th) and merlin over the Beach Reserve on the 6th. Passerine highlight during the month was a Dartford warbler which was seen briefly on Harbour Farm on the 5th, while there were also a couple of sightings of fieldfare at Castle Water (with three on the 19th), occasional raven over Harbour Farm and Castle Water, regular stonechat (above) and at least 16 long-tailed tit in the garden at Lime Kiln on the 16th, while a ’murmuration’ of at least 400 starling was present at Castle Water on the 19th. In addition at least nine grey partridge were seen near the Crittall Hide at Ternery Pool on the 8th.
There were still plenty of invertebrates active during November, particularly early on in the month when the weather was comparatively mild. Interesting moths in the Lime Kiln trap included migrant species such as dark sword-grass, gem, rusty dot pearl, angle shades and dark arches, and typically late year species such as black rustic, red-line Quaker, large wainscot and satellite (this latter a largely winter-active species with semi-carnivorous caterpillars!), while we also had the first reserve record of red-green carpet (below) on the 2nd. Other invertebrates during November included red admiral on the 26th, small tortoiseshell on the 2nd and several records of common darter with the latest on the 27th. There were also regular sightings of common seal, with at least three present at the River Mouth on the 15th.