Perhaps the most exciting wildlife find this month was a southern migrant hawker on Harbour Farm on the 25th, the first reserve record for this rare migrant dragonfly. This largely Mediterranean species was an extremely rare visitor to the British Isles during the 20th century, with only a handful of records. Since 2006, however, it has become more frequent, with the species even seen egg-laying in the last few years, suggesting it may be in the process of colonising the UK in the same way that migrant hawker, now a familiar species in the south-east, did during the 20th century.
It has been a bit of a mixed bag for our breeding birds during 2018. On Ternery Pool black-headed gull, Mediterranean gull and Sandwich tern had a good season, producing a bumper crop of fledglings, while wheatear also had a good year with several managing second broods. For others, however, it has not been so rosy. Both little tern and common tern colonies abruptly finished late in the month with only one definite fledgling between them (common tern), while our normally vigorous avocet colony didn’t appear to fledge any young this year. Oystercatcher had a good breeding season, but lapwing and redshank, while perhaps producing the odd fledgling, seemed to have rather poor season, though a fledged little ringed plover at Castle Water did offer a ray of light! Passage movement slowly began to pick up during the month, with a relative trickle of northern breeders making their way south, with small numbers of common sandpiper (above), green sandpiper, greenshank, whimbrel and ruff among others stopping off on the reserve. Another sign of the advancing year was an increase in the numbers of curlew roosting on the reserve, with a maximum of 182 counted on the Beach Reserve on the 15th, while around 175 sand martin were hawking over the Beach Reserve on the 25th and 33 little egret were on the Salt Pool of Harbour Farm on the 26th. Bird highlights during July were the long-staying red-breasted merganser on Flat Beach Quarry, up to three great white egret and two spoonbill at Castle Water and a roseate tern on Ternery Pool on the 2nd.
Sandwich tern chick
Notable moths during July included the macros pigmy footman, crescent striped, starwort and pale grass eggar and the micros bordered ermel, starry pearl, saltmarsh grass veneer, twin-spot honey and rosy-striped knothorn. The warm weather has brought out the butterflies, with marbled white and good numbers of brown argus recorded during the month, as well as migrants such as painted lady and red admiral, while odonata included ruddy and common darter, emperor, black-tailed skimmer and variable damselfly. Other notable invertebrates during July included the levels yellow-horned horsefly in the information centre on 1st, only the third reserve record, the soldier beetle Crudosilis ruficollis at Castle Water on the 9th, the first reserve record since 1999, and several bee-wolf at Castle Water on the 25th.
Plants in flower included marsh helleborine, wild carrot, teasel, sea heath, red hempnettle, dappled hawkweed and Rottingdean sea-lavender (below)