January saw the addition of a new wader species to the Rye Harbour list with the arrival of a lesser yellowlegs (below) on the reserve. Initially present at Pett Level from the 25th December, this bird was first seen at Rye Harbour on the 2nd January, at the western end of Harbour Farm, and spent the rest of the month shuttling between the two sites. This vagrant from North America is a close relative of the familiar redshank, though smaller, slighter and with long bright yellow legs as the name suggests. In Britain, the species has averaged about five records a year since 1950, with the last Sussex record in 1998 at Pett Level.
Image: John Willsher
January was a very good month for wader watchers on the reserve, with lots of species and many individuals (and let’s not forget the lesser yellowlegs!). Peak counts of golden plover and lapwing (below) included 2500+ on Flat Beach on the 5th and 1500 on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm on the 17th, while dunlin (760), curlew (520), sanderling (250), snipe (126) and ruff (18) also produced some good totals. Best of the bunch were four jack snipe on the Beach Reserve on the 27th, and the purple sandpiper on the Quarry on the 1st, while it was also good to see the first avocet of the year, with two birds on Flat Beach on the 4th and 9th.
Cold weather brought some high waterfowl counts during the month, including 425 teal on the 18th, and 190 shoveler, 180 gadwall and 27 pintail on the 27th. In addition, up to six goldeneye were present throughout
the month, a male scaup was on Long Pit on the 1st, and ‘redhead’ smew were seen at Castle Water on the 23rd and 27th and Narrow Pit on the 4th. Bittern were recorded at Castle Water on the 15th and 19th, with two on the former date, there were regular sightings of great white egret on Narrow Pit, Harbour Farm and at Castle Water, with two birds on several dates, and a flock of 35 white-fronted goose overflew the viewpoint at dusk on the 18th. A good selection of passerines included regular rock pipit on the saltmarsh, over 100 skylark on Flat Beach Level on the 18th, raven over Harbour Farm on the 9th and 19th and at Castle Water on the 27th and four bearded tit at Castle Water on the 19th. The highlight was a firecrest at Castle Water on the 22nd, while a group of six bullfinch here on the 5th was also of note.
Cold weather again meant very few insect sightings during the month, though we did have the first butterfly of the year with a small tortoiseshell near the viewpoint on the 27th. At Lime Kiln Cottage, sunny days found numerous blowflies, Calliphora vicina basking on any upright surface, while grubbing for ground beetles turned up Badister bullatus (above) on Flat Beach on the 19th, and Agonum thoreyi and Agonum fuliginosum from Castle Water on the 27th.« December 2014 | February 2015 »