Highlight this month was probably two Pied Flycatcher present on the 11th at Castle Water. In the UK this species is a summer visitor with around 20,000 pairs breeding mainly in northern and western Britain, while the winter is spent in West Africa. At Rye Harbour ‘Pied Fly’ (as it is known to birders) was more or less annual between the first record in 1986 and the early 21st century, though only in small numbers (the last record of more than one individual was in 1992). Recently however it has become less frequent, with this being the first since 2012. The English name refers to the black and white plumage of the male, as does its specific name hypoleuca which means ‘white below’.
A close second was a Great Skua on the shore on 26th, it killed and fed on a Herring Gull!
A good range of waders were recorded during the month with the bulk provided by 500+ Golden Plover on Flat Beach on the 25th and around 400 Lapwing at Castle Water on the 22nd and with smaller numbers of species such as Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Snipe and Green Sandpiper. Best of the bunch was a Jack Snipe at Castle Water on the 24th, while 38 Greenshank on Flat Beach on the 3rd and 30 Ruff at Castle Water on the 14th constituted very good totals for these species. Waterfowl took on an increasingly ‘end of year’ feel, as numbers increased during the month. On the 18th for instance, at least 775 Wigeon and 133 Teal were present on the reserve, while at least 180 Pochard and 60 Shoveler were recorded on the 14th and 25 Pintail on the 1st. There were also several small groups of Brent Goose around mid-month, with a maximum of 23 on Harbour Farm on the 18th. Highlights were a Black-necked Grebe on Long Pit on the 1st and a Spoonbill on Flat Beach on the 3rd, while a count of at least eight Great White Egret going to roost at Castle Water on the 25th was one of the highest ever on the reserve!
Image: James Tomlinson
Raptors included regular Marsh Harrier (with three on the 14th) and Merlin and the occasional Buzzard and Peregrine. We also had several sightings of Short-eared Owl this month, with singles on the Beach Reserve on the 7th and Harbour Farm on the 16th and two on the Beach Reserve on the 1st.Good numbers of hirundines were recorded on the reserve as birds fed up before continuing their journey south, with a count on the 1st finding around 215 Sand Martin and Swallow and 300 House Martin at Castle Water/Castle Farm. Other migrant passerines included regular Stonechat, with at least eight on the 14th, Whinchat on several dates (with two on Harbour Farm on the 5th), and up to five Wheatear, while around 20 Lesser Redpoll and 30 Siskin were recorded on the 14th. Highlights were the two Pied Flycatchers at Castle Water on the 11th, two Black Redstart on Flat Beach on the 27th and a Yellow-browed Warbler just off the reserve in the Wood! In addition, a Fieldfare on Harbour Farm on the 22nd was the first of the autumn.
With the lateness of the season (and the often wet and windy weather) invertebrate sightings were relatively few and far between! The moth trap contained a small number of autumnal species during the month, the most common being Lunar Underwing, Feathered Brindle (uncommon nationally but regular here) and Large Wainscot. The highlight was a single Clancy’s Rustic (above) on 19th, the first record for the reserve since 2007. Butterflies included Clouded Yellow, Red Admiral and Small Copper and dragonflies Migrant Hawker and Common Darter, while a record of Mottled Shieldbug (below) at Watch Cottage on the 19th was only the third for the reserve (and almost a year to the day since the first last year).