What a very strange and challenging year that was. It was a year when many people discovered the benefits of having places like the nature reserve to visit and had more time to observe wildlife. As usual we produced monthly wildlife summaries (see the hyperlinks in dark green below) and here we pick out some highlights for each month
The number and variety of ducks was high, but it was the presence of a single Smew from December that stands out - it's a duck that eats fish and used to be a regular sight in mid-winter, but perhaps because of milder weather we rarely see them now. It was a red-headed female or immature, the striking white male is even rarer.
A very wet and stormy month. led to flooding by the sea and with heavy rain this didn't lower water levels enough to restart our electric fencing. This is a vital part of our effort to protaetc ground nesting birds from Fox and Badger. As the weeks unfolded it was clear that these predators were inside the fences and we could do little and most birds were unsuccessful. From early in the month there were several sightings of Mediterranean Gull, while the first Sandwich Tern of the year was seen on Ternery Pool on the 22nd and a flock of 22 Avocet was on Flat Beach on the 24th, these firsts of the year are always uplifting to see.
This was the month we celebrated 50 years of the nature reserve and it was supposed too be the start of a series of special events. It turned out differently with the government announcement on the 23rd of the Coronavirus lockdown. We were all under restrictions, but the annual cycle of wildlife continued as summer birds started arriving, insects emerged and flowers opened.
A month of clear bright blue skies with hardly a cloud or aircraft contrail in sight. This led to a very dry month which almost became a drought for some plants and some birds that feed on worms - one of these was the Black-headed Gull, went on to have a poor breeding season.
Visiting specialists discovered a new aphid to Britain - Oriental Mugwort Aphid, with a fascinating story - https://sussexwildlifetrust.or... This was the best month for hearing booming Bitterns at Castle Water - pick a calm day and visit early morning or late evening, but we still haven't had confirmed successful breeding.
The failure of all of our terns to raise any young was the lowlight of the year. The sea needs to be managed much better - the terns act like a Canary in a mine to urge for better stewardship. On a more positive note out small colony of Sea Barley, growing at the highest level of the saltmarsh expanded and produced many flowers this year. This month also saw the addition of yet another rare bee to the reserve list with the discovery of Spotted Dark Bee at Castle Water.
Two very rare insects continue to colonise the nature reserve, the Sussex Emerald moth and the Southern Migrant Hawker dragonfly - both were seen in good numbers this month.
Without doubt the highlight of the whole year was the arrival of a female Swallowtail butterfly that laid eggs that we then nurtured to the chrysalis stage and we hope to see the adults emerge next May. It was all documented here https://sussexwildlifetrust.or... including the feature on BBC South East News.
Capturing adult Marshmallow Moths at the light trap and seeing adults around the foodplant, indicates that our population of this Red Data Book insect is doing OK.
We had a visit from BBC Countryfile and were able to tell the story of our Marshmallow plants https://sussexwildlifetrust.or... A count of at least eight Great White Egret going to roost at Castle Water on the 25th was one of the highest on the reserve.
The most memorable event of the month was a stunning dawn on 6th, so good it got its own blog https://sussexwildlifetrust.or... The bird highlight was a Shore Lark that stayed to the end of the year, a stunning bird. We also concentrated on using trail camera to discover more about the nocturnal small mammals https://sussexwildlifetrust.or... and captured clips of Water Vole, Water Shrew and Harvest Mouse in a reedbed.
Two rare birds from November stayed throughout December, the Shore Lark and the Spoonbill, but they were both elusive.
There's many more blogs to read about the nature reserve at https://sussexwildlifetrust.or...
So, what does 2021 have in store. We are looking forward to many things:
- we all want the threat of Coronavirus to diminish, so that some normality can return.
- welcoming back our team of volunteers to manage the reserve and help visitors discover more about this special place.
- opening the new Discovery Centre and welcoming visitors of all ages and abilities to find out more about our wildlife and history.
- installing new information boards around the reserve.
- successfully protecting our ground nesting birds, so they have a better chance of raising young.
- improving the saltmarsh habitat around the Salt Pool.
- finding new plants and animals that make the nature reserve their home.
To help you find out more about the larger animals on the reserve we have updated the report on vertebrates and it's available as a free download at https://assets.sussexwildlifet...
Happy New Year