This month saw regular sightings of an immature spoonbill (below) on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm. This exotic looking species has actually been an annual visitor to the reserve since the 1970s, so it’s not what you would call rare, but there’s something about the long flattened bill and stately stance that gets many birders, including me, quite excited! This species breeds all the way from Europe to Asia, with around 5000 pairs in north-western Europe, mainly in the Netherlands and Spain. In 2010 it re-established itself as a breeding species in the UK when six pairs bred in Norfolk, the first colony here for over 300 years. Most British records are of passage or wintering birds, with around 75 recorded per year, and the distribution of records at Rye Harbour reflects this, with birds present between late February and late November.
Waders continue to be a feature on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm with the numbers provided by up to 3000 golden plover, over 1000 lapwing, around 400 oystercatcher and 130 curlew. Best of the bunch were 25 knot on Flat Beach on the 19th, 17 ruff at Castle Water on the 29th, two greenshank on Flat Beach Level on the 6th, a spotted redshank on Harbour Farm on the 29th and a purple sandpiper, something of a reserve ‘rarity’, on Ternery Pool and Flat Beach throughout the month. High waterfowl counts late in the month, perhaps presaging cold weather to come, included 400 wigeon, 155 shoveler and 100+ gadwall, while notable sightings included bittern at Castle Water on the 20th and 29th, a great white egret on Harbour Farm on the 5th and 16th, four red-breasted merganser offshore on the 6th and up to seven pintail at Castle Water. Raptors included regular marsh harrier at Castle Water and Harbour Farm and an immature peregrine (below) on the
Beach Reserve mid-month, while there were several sightings of barn owl at Castle Water. Also at Castle Water the white-winged black tern was still present until the 4th, while three Sandwich tern were on the shore on the 8th. Passerines included probably the last of our swallows for this year, with two passing over on the 7th, single wheatear on the Beach Reserve the 1st and 3rd, and three redwing on Castle Farm also on the 3rd. The highlights during November were a Lapland bunting over the Beach Reserve on the 6th, Dartford warbler on Harbour Farm on the 29th, and a snow bunting on the Beach Reserve on the 24th, while a pair of raven on Harbour Farm on the 22nd and over 100 skylark on the new saltmarsh on the 30th were also of note.
As might be expected, invertebrate sightings were few and far between this month. However, periods of warmer weather did result in a couple of sightings of red admiral on the 6th and the 22nd, while the micro moths narrow-winged grey and light brown apple moth were both recorded at Lime Kiln Cottage. Other invertebrates during November included the tiny white woodlouse Platyarthrus hoffmannseggii and the metallic blue ground-beetle Prussian plate-jaw from the Beach Reserve. At the end of the month there were still several “summer” flowers in bloom, including viper’s bugloss, sea mayweed (below), common stork’sbill and of course a profusion of gorse.