One bird which is typical of autumn passage at Rye Harbour is the whinchat. This species is a summer visitor and passage migrant in the UK, spending its summer in the north and west and the winter in central and southern Africa. While fairly common over most of breeding range, it has seen serious declines in some western countries, and in the UK is now on the ‘red list’, with numbers having dropped by over 50% between 1995 and 2015. Whinchat often breed in scrubby gorse in stony, upland areas and both its common and scientific names reference this, with its English name derived from whin, an old name for gorse and chat referring to its call, and its scientific name, Saxicola rubetra, meaning "small rock-dwelling bird".
While bird migrant numbers still haven’t reached the levels we expect in late Summer, there was a fair range of species recorded during August. Waders included many common sandpiper, small numbers greenshank and the occasional black-tailed godwit, knot and snipe, with the highlights being several spotted redshank (above, including at least three on the Quarry on 12th) and wood sandpiper and little stint at Castle Water on the 26th. Passerines included good numbers of sand martin moving through late in the month, with perhaps 300+ over the Beach Reserve on the 26th, small numbers of house martin and swallow and swift on the 16th. This month also saw regular wheatear and the occasional whinchat, while numbers of yellow wagtail crept up during the month, with perhaps 130 recorded on the 25th. New warden Dave King undertook a couple of ringing sessions near the caravan park and caught 10 garden warbler, 20 willow warbler, 20 whitethroat and 40 lesser whitethroat among other things! While most of our breeding terns have left, there were still a few stragglers around, with around 100 Sandwich tern on the Beach Reserve on the 6th and small numbers of common tern throughout the month, while other notable seabirds included small numbers of gannet and a kittiwake on the 22nd. Other interesting sightings during August included the red-breasted merganser on Harbour Farm, up to four great white egret, regular spoonbill and bearded tit at Castle Water, the occasional hobby, peregrine over Flat Beach on the 3rd and at Castle Water on the 8th, barn owl on Harbour Farm on the 25th and 27 grey partridge on the Beach Reserve on the 4th!
Uncommon moths during August included pale grass eggar, oblique-striped, saltmarsh knothorn (above, only the second reserve record in the last 10 years) and starry pearl, while the trap also turned up a single great silver water beetle on the 28th. The bulk of the butterflies during the weekly transects were meadow brown and small heath, though a few small copper were also recorded and several holly blue were seen ‘off transect’ while dragonflies included typical late summer fare such as common and ruddy darter and migrant hawker. A couple of interesting flies during August included the uncommon saltmarsh house-fly Lispe caesia and the vagrant blowfly Stomorhina lunata, only the second reserve record, while several bee wolf were found at Castle Water during the month. Shingle flowers made a comeback after the drought, with autumn ladies tresses, least lettuce, red hemp-nettle, viper’s bugloss, herb Robert and sea campion (below).