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Wild Rye: Discover Our Wetland Wildlife

Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly

Recent Sightings

July 2013

One species which is always very popular with birders at Rye Harbour is roseate tern. Despite breeding worldwide, this is an uncommon species in Britain, with a population of less than 70 pairs, the main colonies in northern Scotland, north-east England and north Wales. First recognised as a distinct species in 1813, breeding numbers have been on something of a roller coaster since then. During the 19th century the species was almost brought to extinction by collecting both of eggs and feathers for the millinery trade, before recovering during the early 20th century. There was another crash from about the late 60s and early 70s when numbers in Britain fell from around 700 pairs in 1969-70 to 56 in 2000 due to trapping in the African wintering grounds, predation and habitat loss. Since then conservation measures have seen a small increase, but this is still a species with a precarious foothold in Britain, and one of only three red-listed seabirds. The best times to see this species at Rye Harbour are at dusk and high tide, usually on the Quarry or Ternery Pool, and this month up to two birds were present regularly throughout. Roseate Tern is most likely to be confused with common tern, but can be identified by its paler colouration, often with a pinkish breast (hence it’s name) longer tail, and distinctive call, a harsh, two-syllable ‘chu-wit’ reminiscent of spotted redshank.

Passage movement picked up during July, with a range of migrant species recorded. From mid-month at Castle Water this included 18 greenshank, 14 common sandpiper, eight green sandpiper, 12 little ringed plover and small numbers of ruff and black-tailed godwit, while on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm a range of species including knot, sanderling, bar-tailed godwit, curlew, whimbrel and golden plover were present during the month. Best of these migrants was probably wood sandpiper, with one at Castle Water on the 24th and two on Harbour Farm on the 22nd. Other notable bird during July included garganey, with four on the Beach Reserve on the 13th, turtle dove and yellow wagtail at Castle Water on the 16th, while the highlight was two Balearic shearwater seen close offshore on the 19th

Better weather during July saw a welcome increase in the numbers of insects on the reserve. The Lime Kiln moth trap, particularly later in the month, had around 70 species per night, a good total at any time of the year, with the highlights being bordered ermel, starry pearl, hook-tipped grass veneer, rosy-streaked knothorn and crescent striped. Similarly butterfly numbers picked up, with the best of the bunch being a good crop of marbled white, including up to six at Castle Water and even one in the Lime Kiln garden! Other invertebrate highlights included the beetle Isochnus populi, saltmarsh horsefly (both Red Data Book), a humming-bird hawk-moth near Parke’s hide on the 28th, and a summer chafer found on the 14th, the first ever record at Rye Harbour. Plants in flower during July included sea heath, wild carrot, least lettuce, marsh helleborine and marshmallow.

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