September 2016: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings

03 October 2016 | Posted in Rye Harbour , Wildlife , Wetland
September 2016: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Sightings
Ken Billington

One regular but uncommon wader which turns up at Rye Harbour at this time of year is the curlew sandpiper, and this year was no exception with small numbers present on the reserve during September. This species breeds in the tundra of Arctic Siberia with most birds wintering in Africa, though some will get as far as Asia and some Australasia (a trip of around 15,000 miles)! Relatively small numbers turn up in Britain in autumn each year, generally between the a few tens to a hundred or so, and it is interesting to compare the British total with those found in northern Germany where as many as 27,000 have been found on the Wadden Sea!

As might be expected a good range of waders were present on the reserve during September. Numbers were provided by curlew (245 departing the roost on West Beach on the 23rd), lapwing (200 at Castle Water on the 22nd) and golden plover (135 on Flat Beach on the 17th), while the ‘best of the rest’ included curlew sandpiper on the Beach Reserve on several dates and several records of little stint (with a maximum of four on Flat Beach on the 16th). September also saw in increase in waterfowl numbers as the month progressed, with maximum counts of 430 teal, 410 wigeon, 285 mallard, 146 gadwall and 34 shoveler late in the month. Notable records included great white egret at Castle Water on the 8th and 22nd and regular sightings of spoonbill throughout the month. Still a few terns around during September, with up to 160 Sandwich tern present on the shore late in the month and a couple of little tern on Ternery Pool on the 16th. This attracted the attention of up to five Arctic skua during the month, while a great skua was seen offshore on the 30th. Raptors sightings saw the first merlin sightings of the autumn, on the Beach Reserve on the 19th and 20th (two) and probably the last hobby (above) with birds on the Beach Reserve on the 8th and at Castle Water (three) on the 9th. The highlight however was an osprey over the Beach Reserve on the 17th. Lots of hirundines still moving through during September, with a count on Harbour Farm the 16th recording 800 swallow, 250 sand martin (below) and 150 house martin, and this multitude also included four swift, probably the last of the year. Also much in evidence this month was meadow pipit with at least 500 present on the Beach Reserve on the 9th. Other migrants included up to 11 wheatear on the Beach Reserve and four whinchat at Castle Water on the 22nd, 14 yellow wagtail on the Beach Reserve on the 19th, grey wagtail on Harbour Farm on the 16th (three) and 22nd (four) and spotted flycatcher at Castle Water on the 20th and 22nd (two). In addition, linnet numbers on the Beach Reserve began to build, with at least 180 present on the 8th, while at Castle Water regular sightings of bearded tit included at least 33 on the 22nd.

Moth trap catches at Lime Kiln Cottage trailed off during September, though there were still some notable records. Migrants included rush veneer, silver y, diamond-back moth and a single dark sword grass, with the best of the bunch being two convolvulus hawk moth and a gem on the 12th and an olive-tree pearl on the 9th, only the third reserve record. Also of note was a rosy-streaked knothorn on the 12th, one of the latest reserve records ever for this uncommon micro. The highlight however was a single marsh mallow moth (below) found at Castle Water on the evening of the 18th. This rare moth is only found at a few sites in the UK, and in 1996 we begun planting seedlings to encourage it, so it’s nice that after 20 years we are actually finding some adults! Another significant discovery was the 1mm long beetle Hypocoprus latridioides found by local entomologist David Hance at Castle Water on the 19th, a species which hasn’t been seen in Britain for 114 years! Other notable records during September included the jumping spider Marpissa muscosa at Lime Kiln Cottage on 8th and southern hawker and clouded yellow at Castle Water on the 15th, while two immature common toad on Harbour Farm on the 6th were the first records on the reserve since 2013 and the first involving multiple individuals since 1997! Plants in flower included marsh mallow, autumn lady’s tresses, sea aster and perennial sow-thistle.