One of the characteristic invertebrates of Rye Harbour at this time of the year is the sea-aster bee. This close relative of the increasingly common ivy bee is largely dependent on saltmarsh (an alternative name is saltmarsh bee) and consequently has a very restricted distribution in the UK. As its common name suggests this species feeds largely on sea aster, though it can occasionally be found on other species. Nests are found in soft soil adjacent to saltmarsh and can occasionally flood, though this species, in common with all Colletes bees, line their nests with a watertight material which resembles clear plastic when dry and are consequently sometimes referred to as ‘cellophane bees’.
Migrants were much in evidence during September, either departing summer visitors or the autumn/winter species fleeing chilly northern climes. Waders included a nice selection, including whimbrel, ruff, spotted redshank, greenshank, common sandpiper and black-tailed godwit, while small numbers of golden plover began to appear late in the month and curlew roost numbers on Harbour Farm/Beach Reserve peaked at 180. In addition, small numbers of Sandwich tern lingered to the end of the month. At Castle Water up to six great white egret were recorded during September, while a spoonbill was also present for much of the month, occasionally moving out to feed on the pools on Harbour Farm. September also saw increasing numbers of duck on the reserve, particularly wigeon and teal which peaked at 120 and 41 respectively, but also tufted duck, pochard and shoveler, while an immature garganey was present on Castle Water on the 8th. Raptors during the month included marsh harrier, peregrine and buzzard, while September must be the only month where the last of the summer’s hobby and the first of autumn merlin are recorded together! Passerines included small numbers of whinchat and wheatear early in the month, up to 15 stonechat (above) and regular yellow wagtail, while departing warblers included garden warbler, lesser whitethroat, blackcap and, particularly late in the month, good numbers of chiffchaff. In addition, the new saltmarsh attracted increasing numbers of meadow pipit and skylark and 1000 linnet were record on Flat Beach on 27th.
The moth trap at Lime Kiln Cottage had a distinctly ‘autumny’ feel for much of September, with species such as straw underwing, lunar underwing, centre-barred sallow, frosted orange and lots of square-spot rustic, while notables included a few dark sword-grass (a migrant), oblique-striped, star-wort and starry pearl. With the monthly butterfly/dragonfly counts reaching their end numbers of both groups were low, though there were plenty of red admiral around and a couple of clouded yellow were recorded off transect, while another southern migrant hawker was seen at Castle Water during a work-party. Other interesting invertebrates during the month included both sea-aster bee and ivy bee, the leaf beetle Chrysolina banksi (above), the uncommon weevil Larinus planus and the local ant Lasius fuliginosus, the first reserve record, while common lizard and slow-worm were widespread, there were regular common seal in the River Rother and a brown hare was flushed on Castle Farm on the 16th. Plants in flower included yellow horned-poppy, sea-aster, sea campion, viper’s bugloss, the rare red hemp-nettle (below) and the very rare least lettuce.