The late spring period is perhaps the only time that nightingale (below) can be heard singing around Rye Harbour, with one or two birds usually heard by the Narrow Pits and near the caravan park. Nightingales winter in West Africa and arrive in Britain around about June, with most British breeders occurring in the south-east corner of England. Since the late 90’s, changes in land management and climatic changes, perhaps combined with mortality on their wintering grounds, have seen a reduction in numbers here of over 50%, resulting in the species being placed on the amber list of birds of conservation concern. While relatively dull in appearance, the nightingale more than makes up for this with its famous song, a combination of fluting whistles and liquid trills usually delivered from deep within scrub. Indeed, so secretive are the adults that they are more often heard than seen. The name itself is very old, dating from perhaps 1000 years ago, and means ‘night songstress’, due to the fact that the species often sings at night, and the misconception in earlier times that it was the female, rather than the male, which sang.
This month saw the first chicks of lapwing, oystercatcher and ringed plover, with the latter in particular appearing to be having a good year. Once again our avocet appear to be doing well with around 30 pairs producing good numbers of chicks by the end of the month, while at least five pairs of little ringed plover were present around the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm. On Ternery Pool perhaps 1200 pairs of black-headed gull and at least 200 pairs of Sandwich tern nested, while on Flat Beach at least six pairs of little tern were present towards the end of the month. At Castle Water booming bittern were heard throughout the month, while the resident pair of marsh harrier were seen regularly. The reserve saw several interesting visitors during the month. A Danish ringed spoonbill (below) was present on Harbour Farm on the 11th before being joined by a second bird on the 12th, with both remaining until the 19th, while a purple heron and great white egret were present on the 13th and roseate tern on the 2nd and 12th. In addition, passage migrants included up to 48 dunlin, 16 black-tailed godwit, 12 whimbrel, five curlew, eight bar-tailed godwit, three ruff, seven little stint and singles of curlew and common sandpiper, while up to eight hobby were present at Castle Water early in the month.
Still very poor for moth trapping on the reserve, with both number of species and individuals well below what I would expect for this time of the year. Highlights were the first record of bordered ermel for the year and our first pale pinion since 2008! A better selection of dragonflies and damselflies included the first downy emerald, four-spotted chaser and variable damselfly at Castle Water, with hairy dragonfly (below) still active here early in the month, while butterflies included brown argus, small copper, orange-tip and painted lady. Notable species included the beetles Helops caeruleus, Larinus planus and great silver water beetle (the latter from the moth trap at Lime Kiln Cottage). Mammals included brown hare and water shrew at Castle Water, the latter the first record here for several years. Plants in flower included sea kale, sea campion, sea pea, yellow horned-poppy, viper’s bugloss, bittersweet, herb robert, red clover, salsify and yellow rattle.