Bitterly cold weather during February meant that numbers of many waterfowl remained high. Early in the month peak counts included 645 teal, 472 wigeon, 170 gadwall and 147 shoveler, while numbers of goldeneye, a typically winter species at Rye Harbour peaked at 13 mid-month. At Ternery Pool a Slavonian grebe was present on the 2nd and a red-breasted merganser (below) from the 22nd to 28th. Bittern was seen throughout the month, with a maximum of two at Castle Water on the 7th, and there were also regular sightings of great white egret on the Beach Reserve and at Castle Water, with a maximum of three birds on several dates. In contrast, by the end of the month we had already had our first sightings Sandwich tern, with five birds present on the Beach Reserve on the 16th, and Mediterranean gull, three on the 2nd, while black-headed gull numbers also began to pick up!
A fine selection of waders was present during February, with both a good range of numbers and some high counts. Dunlin in particular became increasingly abundant with a maximum count of 650 on Flat Beach/Harbour Farm on the 21, while roosting birds on the shore (below) included 60 sanderling, 28 grey plover and 16 knot. Also on the Beach Reserve, a little stint and up three avocet were present throughout, while the overwintering spotted redshank was joined by a second bird late month. On Harbour Farm highlights were several sightings of jack snipe (with two on the 21st), small numbers of green sandpiper, black-tailed godwit and bar-tailed godwit, and 470 curlew on the 2nd, while at Castle Water a count of 31 ruff on the 22nd was notable. Raptor highlight during February was a ringtail (female or immature male) hen harrier which was seen over the Beach Reserve/Harbour Farm on the 21st and 28th, a welcome record for this increasingly scarce species. Apart from that, the usual suspects, with regular marsh harrier (with three on several dates) and peregrine and a common buzzard on 7th. In addition, there were regular sightings of barn owl, with up to three present late in the month. Offshore, movement began to pick up during
February, probably representing both cold-weather movements and seasonal passage. Numbers were provided by 300 wigeon, 170 common scoter and 100 teal on the 11th, with smaller numbers of great crested grebe, red-throated diver, pintail and shelduck also present. The highlight was two black-throated diver out from the old lifeboat house on the 9th. In addition, a great skua was present briefly over Flat Beach during bad weather on the 10th. Little in the way of notable passerine sightings this month; a maximum of 61 fieldfare on Castle Farm on the 3rd, 75 skylark on the new saltmarsh on the 6th, up to three rock pipit on the saltmarsh and eight bearded tit at Castle Water on the 7th being the only records of interest.
The only non-avian sightings of note during February involved several plants of common whitlow grass in flower at Camber Castle on the 17th, and devil’s coach horse and the ground-beetle Licinus punctulatus (above) under sleepers on Flat Beach on 18th. This latter is a rather scarce species which has not been recorded on the reserve since 2000, so a welcome record.