July 2014For me, the bird of the month was a summer–plumaged black-necked grebe which was present on Ternery Pool from the 6th to the 8th. This species is more or less annual at Rye Harbour, and while it has been recorded every month of the year, has occurred largely during the autumn and winter months in recent years. As a consequence, we generally see it in its drab winter plumage, so to see it in its summer finery was a real treat! In Britain, around 50 pairs breed in Scotland and northern England, on shallow, undisturbed pools. The relatively small wintering population (around 130 birds) tends to occur around the southern coasts of England and Wales. The life-cycle of this species involves several periods annually when their flight muscles atrophy, and consequently for up to nine or ten months of the year black-necked grebes are virtually flightless, the longest period without flight for any flying bird. However, prior to migration, these muscles expand, and this species is capable of flights of several thousand miles when necessary. Image – Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.de
Migration continued apace during July, and good numbers of migrant waders included up to 180 dunlin, 120 curlew, 47 golden plover and 42 sanderling. Migrants also included up to 16 green sandpiper, 15 snipe, 13 knot, nine common sandpiper, eight each of black-tailed godwit and greenshank, and smaller numbers of grey plover, whimbrel and ruff. Highlights were a spotted redshank on Harbour Farm on the 31st, a curlew sandpiper on the Beach Reserve on the 25th and several sightings of wood sandpiper later in the month, with four present on Harbour Farm on the 28th. Raptors included the usual marsh harrier, with four at Castle Water on the 7th and occasional hobby and peregrine, with two of the latter on the Beach Reserve on the 22nd, while waterfowl included an unseasonal red-breasted merganser on the quarry from the 9th to the 12th, and a garganey offshore on the 29th. Hirundines trickled through throughout the month, with a maximum of 200 sand martin over the Beach Reserve on the 10th, 150 swallow over Harbour Farm on the 22nd and 35 house martin over Castle Water on the 7th. Swift passage in the first half of the month culminated in a count of 150 on Harbour Farm on the 18th. Passerine highlight was undoubtedly a serin which was present on Harbour Farm on the 12th, while other notable sightings included two turtle dove at Castle Water on the 7th and 17th, a count of 22 bearded tit at Castle Water on the 7th, three raven on Harbour Farm on the same date and small numbers of yellow wagtail and wheatear throughout.
Moth numbers definitely ‘caught up’ during July, with up to 70 species in the trap at Lime Kiln Cottage. Rarities included starry pearl and bordered ermel*, but the star was a bright wave (above) on the 7th, only the second reserve record for this red data book species. Similarly, butterfly counts looked much healthier during the month, with the highlights being marbled white, brown argus and even several records of clouded yellow, while dragonflies included the year’s first emperor and migrant hawker. Uncommon invertebrates recorded during July included the weevil Limobius mixtus, the brush-horned sand-beetle Orthocerus clavicornis and the ‘true bugs’ Megalonotus praetextatus and Odontoscelis lineola. The highlight however was the Red Data Book fly Miltogramma germari, found on Castle Farm on the 25th, the first reserve record. Plants in flower this month included sea-heath, marsh mallow and strawberry clover (below).