Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings - October 2018
Bird highlight during October was a cattle egret which was initially seen on Castle Farm on the 18th. This species has undergone an incredible expansion across its range, with western birds spreading from their original home in the Iberian Peninsula and Africa to northern Europe and even much of Central and North America! In the UK, this was a rare bird previous to 2007 but since then it has become much more common and has even bred in the country on several occasions, the last in 2017. As it’s the name suggests, this species is often found among livestock where it takes advantage of the churned earth created by their hooves to search for its insect prey and in fact the scientific name of this species, Bubulcus is the Greek word for herdsman or ox-driver.
Waders were on the sparse side during October, perhaps due to the relatively mild weather for most of the month. The largest counts related to the curlew roosts on Harbour Farm and the Beach Reserve, with 169 on the 3rd/4th , while golden plover numbers peaked at around 80-100 late in the month. In contrast lapwing numbers remained low throughout the month, barely reaching double figures! Other than that it was small numbers of black-tailed godwit, grey plover, greenshank (above), snipe and dunlin that provided the interest, with the highlight a spotted redshank heard calling on the new saltmarsh on the 16th. Raptors included the occasional marsh harrier (including one with grey partridge prey on Harbour Farm on the 2nd!), merlin on the 1st (Flat Beach) and 22nd (Harbour Farm) a peregrine over the Beach Reserve on the 8th and buzzard at Castle Water on the 16th and 18th. In addition, both short-eared owl and barn owl were seen at Castle Water on the 26th. Apart from the cattle egret, waterfowl highlights included a bittern on Long Pit on the 24th, black-necked grebe on Long pit on the 14th and several sightings of great white egret at Castle Water, with two on the 8th, while an immature spoonbill on Harbour Farm late in the month was joined by a second bird on the 23rd. Three Sandwich tern were fishing offshore on the 8th while a little gull was on Castle Water the same date and the 17th, (along with a Mediterranean gull) and small numbers of gannet were offshore on the 14th and 26th. In addition, an immature red-throated diver was present in the River Rother from at least the 7th to the 15th. Passerine records during October included small numbers of sand martin early in the month, the occasional raven, four siskin on the Beach Reserve on the 20th, lesser redpoll on the 20th (5) and 26th (16) and two kingfisher on the 2nd (Castle Water and Harbour Farm), while wheatear were seen on the Beach Reserve on the 13th and 14th.
Invertebrates during October were dominated by migrant moths, with the highlights being Radford’s flame shoulder (above) and maize moth, both rare immigrants to the UK and constituting the first and second reserve records respectively. Also new to the reserve was Italian tubic, a micro moth first recorded in the UK in 2003 and now thought to be breeding. October also saw the second reserve record for merveille du jour, while other notable migrants included vestal, gem, scarce bordered straw, delicate and a humming-bird hawkmoth on the 18th. Most butterfly records during the month involved either red admiral or the occasional clouded yellow, while dragonflies included migrant hawker and common darter. Plants in flower included least lettuce, greater sea spurrey, autumn hawkbit (below) and salsify.