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Wild Rye: Discover Our Wetland Wildlife

Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly

Recent Sightings

June 2014

Sandwich tern (below) is the largest of the three species of tern which nest at Rye Harbour, and also the first to arrive, with the first birds seen as early as late February in some years. Named after Sandwich in Kent (where it now, unfortunately, does not nest), its pale grey back, black cap with a shaggy crest and black bill with a yellow tip, as well as its raucous ‘kerrick’ call make it a very distinctive species. Less aggressive than some of the smaller tern species, Sandwich terns often nest with other, more belligerent species to avoid predation, and at Rye Harbour the colony is on Ternery Pool along with both black-headed gull and common tern, species known for their hostility to predators. It is also the commonest of our breeding terns, with up to 750 pairs (7% of UK total), but in recent years success has been very variable, due to a combination of poor food supply and perhaps predation. Fortunately, adult birds are quite long-lived (around 30 years), and do not have to breed successfully every year.

Our breeding seabirds are having a rather mixed season. Black-headed gull are doing rather well, and many have now fledged, while our common tern also seem to be producing a decent crop of chicks. Sandwich tern on the other hand are having yet another poor year, perhaps due to poor food supply, with very few chicks seen. Most of our little tern on Flat Beach seem to have survived the depredations of a couple of badgers earlier in the season, and around 6-8 pairs are present (though no chicks have been seen yet). Similarly, wader success had been variable. Avocet produced their first fledglings during June, and seem to have done quite well, while the oldest of three or four pairs of little ringed plover on Harbour Farm also fledged during the month. Lapwing, ringed plover and redshank seem to have had moderate success, producing small numbers of chicks and a few fledglings, while oystercatcher have had a very poor year, with very few chicks produced (badgers inside fences!). On the Beach Reserve four or five pairs of wheatear continued to produce their first broods and had probably moved onto their second by the end of the month (fledgeling below). Migrant numbers increased steadily during June as passage movement picked up. A good selection of waders included grey plover, curlew, knot, and later in the month three greenshank, spotted redshank, a few whimbrel, up to 13 bar-tailed godwit and several green sandpiper. Notable waterfowl included three garganey at Castle Water on the 28th, and four spoonbill on the new saltmarsh on the 10th and another two on 30th. On the sea a couple of eider on 5th and 90 common scoter on 13th.

A better month for the moths at Lime Kiln, though numbers of species and individuals was still a bit low compared to previous years. Highlights were the micros starry pearl, rosy streaked knot-horn and salt-marsh grass-veneer and the macros shore wainscot and sand dart, while immigrants included bordered straw and diamond-back moth. Similarly butterfly numbers were very poor during June, though the month did come up with the occasional red admiral and painted lady and the first appearance of our resident marbled white at Castle Water (below).

Other notable invertebrates recorded during June included the bug Megalonotus sabulicola and the beetle Helops caeruleus on the Beach Reserve and the long-horned general soldierfly at Castle Water. It has been a good year for orchids on the reserve this year, with pyramidal, common spotted and particularly bee orchid (below)showing in good numbers, while a single plant of southern marsh orchid at Castle Water was the first one I have seen here in 10 years!

a very pale bee orchid growing near the east end of the new flood bank.