One bird which has become much more common on the reserve in the last 10 years is the raven. Previous to 2006 there were only a handful of records for the area (the oldest record we have on the reserve database is 1997) but since then they have become increasingly regular, and this month saw up to 11 birds on the reserve, the highest count on record. Perhaps because of their association with carrion and their black colouration, ravens have a bit of a bad reputation in many cultures (even their collective noun is an ‘unkindness’), often being associated with bad omens, greed or death. However they are among the most intelligent of birds, with the ability to problem solve, a liking for play and the ability to use tools!
October saw a good range of wader species moving through the reserve, though no great numbers were involved. The exceptions were the first good counts of golden plover for the latter part of the year, with at least 800 birds present on Flat Beach on the 26th and 500+ lapwing on the 8th. Highlights were up to eight little stint at Castle Water, with three curlew sandpiper here on the 19th, three jack snipe on Harbour Farm on the 12th and spotted redshank on Flat Beach Level on the 31st and Castle Water on the 6th. With the advancing year waterfowl numbers are increasing on the reserve and this month saw particularly good numbers of wigeon (460 on the 18th), teal (157 on the 8th) and greylag goose (444 on the 19th). Highlights included a whooper swan on Harbour Farm on the 8th, red-breasted merganser on Long Pit on the 8th, black-necked grebe on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm late in the month, great white egret on Harbour Farm on the 16th and seven spoonbill at Castle Water from the 1st to 3rd. In addition a little gull was present on Castle Water on the 8th and on Long Pit late in the month. Raptors during the month included marsh harrier on several dates, hobby on the Beach Reserve on the 2nd (two) and 3rd and merlin on the 28th, while a short-eared owl was seen over Harbour Farm on the 30th. Passerines during October included small numbers of wheatear early in the month, up to 200 meadow pipit, regular stonechat and small numbers of bearded tit, though the highlight was a snow bunting (above) seen briefly on the Beach Reserve on the 27th.
Still a few migrant insects around during October, with both clouded yellow and red admiral on the wing, gem, vestal, scarce bordered straw and dark sword-grass in the Lime Kiln moth trap and convolvulus hawk-moth caterpillars looking for somewhere to pupate. The moth trap also turned up the first record of Blair’s shoulder-knot on the reserve since 2004 and the first ever reserve record for the micro-moth London dowd. Also new to the reserve list during the month were ivy bee and the leaf beetle Chrysolina banksii (below) both found on the Beach Reserve, while other notable invertebrates during October included the uncommon spiders Lathys stigmatisata, Sitticus inexpectus and Myrmarachne formicaria and the saltmarsh beetle Dicheirotrichus obsoletus. Plants in flower included sea aster, bristly oxtongue and viper’s bugloss.