Highlight during September were several sightings of Stone Curlew on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm. Once a widespread breeder in the UK, changes in farming methods and habitat loss resulted in a huge reduction in numbers between the 1930s and 1980. Since then, intensive conservation effort has helped the population bounce back to around 350 pairs, though this is still one of the UKs rarest breeding birds. Despite its name it is not related to the familiar Curlew but gets its name from the Curlew-like call, and it has many alternative names including Thick-knee, Goggle-eyes, and my particular favourite, Wailing Heath Chicken!
A good range of waders during September, included maximum counts of 350 each of Lapwing and Oystercatcher and around 100 Curlew over Harbour Farm on the 2nd. Lots of passage migrants too, with Dunlin providing the largest numbers (87 on the Beach Reserve on the 15th), followed by 20 Knot here on the 4th and 13 Black-tailed Godwit on the 2nd. Highlights on the Beach Reserve (apart from the Stone Curlew) were Little Stint on the 21st (two) and 22nd (three), Curlew Sandpiper on the 19th and Spotted Redshank on the 15th. September saw the end of our Common Tern breeding season for the year, with around 20 young fledging, while at least 50 Sandwich Tern were present on the Beach Reserve early in the month. With the advancing year numbers of species such as Teal and Wigeon (above) began to increase on the reserve, with counts of around 50 for both species, while we also had out first Pintail of the autumn on Castle Water on the 21st. Waterfowl highlights were a Black-necked Grebe on Castle Water on the 20th and regular Great White Egret with two on several dates. Raptors included regular Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Buzzard, with two on several dates. Highlights were an Osprey over the Beach Reserve on the 10th and a White-tailed Sea Eagle on the 2nd, this latter one of several radio-tracked birds released on the Isle of Wight as part of a reintroduction programme. Passerines during September included regular Wheatear, small numbers of Yellow Wagtail early in the month and the occasional Whinchat, while warblers included Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap. There was plenty of evidence of passerine migration during September, with hirundines in particular moving through in large numbers. This included at least 1000 House Martin over Long Pit on the 15th, and around 150 Swallow over Rye Harbour Village on the 22nd. On Harbour Farm, over 1000 each of Starling and Linnet were present on the 2nd, while two Raven were seen regularly.
Cool evenings and wet weather later in the month made for some sparse moth trap catches during September, with the commonest species Flounced Rustic, Square-spot Rustic and Large Yellow Underwing, while notable species included L-album Wainscot, Feathered Brindle and Kent Black Arches. Invertebrate highlight during September were several records of the very rare Marshmallow Moth at Castle Water, while a record of the equally rare Whelk Jumping-spider on 22nd was the latest ever on the reserve. Other notable invertebrate sightings included Sea Aster Bee on the saltmarsh on several dates and the first reserve record of Willow Emerald Damselfly at Castle Water on the 17th. Plants in flower included Sea Aster, Hoary Ragwort, Perennial Sow-thistle, Least Lettuce, Viper’s Bugloss, Yellow Horned-poppy and Tufted Vetch.