A pleasant surprise during September was a wryneck seen at Castle Water on the 7th of the month. This sparrow-sized woodpecker was once a widespread in England and Wales, but by 1974 was extinct as a breeding bird. Nowadays it occurs only as a migrant, particularly during late summer and autumn, and at Rye Harbour is a less than annual visitor with all but one record in late August and September. In the past this species was associated with sorcery and the Roman name for this and related species ‘jynx’ is the basis for the English word ‘jinx’ meaning to curse or to bring bad luck, while the name wryneck itself comes from the ability to twist its neck through almost 360 degrees.
Image: Michael Amos
Passage movement really got into full swing during September, with a wide range of birds and good numbers of individuals moving through the reserve. Wader highlight was a buff-breasted sandpiper seen briefly on Flat Beach on the 20th, while a curlew sandpiper was present at Castle Water on the 5th, a jack snipe was on Harbour Farm on the 15th and there were regular sightings of little stint, with eight on the 30th. Notable waterfowl during September included regular great white egret at Castle Water, with three present on the 26th and 29th, red-breasted merganser throughout, black-necked grebe on Ternery Pool from the 26th and seven spoonbill at Castle Water from the 26th to the 30th (above). Best of the bunch for the raptors was an osprey over the Beach Reserve on the 16th, while merlin were present on the Beach Reserve on the 26th and 29th. In addition, a barn owl was sighted on Harbour Farm on the 18th and a short-eared owl on the Beach Reserve on the 17th and 18th. Passerines included large numbers of swallow and house martin, with at least 1000 of the former and 600 of the latter over the Beach Reserve on the 21st, regular flocks of meadow pipit, with 250 on the Beach Reserve on the 15th and 50+ yellow wagtail on the Beach Reserve on the 2nd, as well as small numbers of wheatear, stonechat and grey wagtail. In addition to the wryneck on the 7th passerine highlights included firecrest at Castle Water on the 29th, regular sightings of raven, with 10 present on Harbour Farm on the 15th and whinchat on Harbour Farm on the 11th, while an immature cuckoo on the Beach Reserve on 26th was only the third September record of this species at Rye Harbour. Seabirds moving through during September included up to 95 Sandwich tern and 33 common tern on the Beach Reserve, this concentration of victims attracting the attention of small numbers of Arctic skua, while little gull were present on the Quarry on the 3rd , Long Pit on the 10th and Castle Water on the 22nd.
Still a few migrant insects around during the month including clouded yellow, red admiral and painted lady and several hornet hoverfly, while the moth trap at Lime Kiln Cottage played host to pearly underwing, white-point, silver-y and rusty-dot pearl. The moth trap also turned up a few typically early autumn species such as feathered brindle and frosted orange, while several sea-aster bee on the saltmarsh were also signs of the advancing year! Amazingly there was also another sighting of monarch butterfly (below) with one seen by Mark Milham on the 2nd . Flower showing during September included sea-aster, red hemp-nettle, marshmallow, least lettuce, yellow horned-poppy and viper’s bugloss.
Image: Mark Milham