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Wild Rye: Discover Our Wetland Wildlife

Black-tailed Skimmer dragonfly

Recent Sightings

October 2013

Bird highlight during October was a dotterel (below) which was present on Flat Beach on 12th October. This relative of the ringed plover breeds on Arctic tundra and high mountain plateaus in northern Europe, with a small population in northern Scotland. It winters in a narrow belt from Morocco to Iran, and at Rye Harbour usually turns up during spring or autumn passage, most frequently during late April/early May and September to early October and quite often in with flocks of golden plover. The name itself is a pejorative term meaning a doting old fool, referring to the birds trusting nature (both the scientific name morinellus, which means ‘little fool’ and the Gaelic name for this species, amadán, meaning ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’ have a similar meaning). Over the years, this trusting nature made the bird very vulnerable to humans, initially for their flesh (they were considered a delicacy during the middle ages) and later because their feathers were prized for making trout flies and their skins for taxidermy. Coupled with egg-collecting, this resulted in a steep decline in breeding numbers in Britain during the 19th century, and by the early 20th century only about 50 pairs bred here Britain. Fortunately things have picked up somewhat since then, and now about 700 pairs breed in Scotland. This is one of the few species of wader where the male is duller in coloration than the female, a feature related to the fact that it the male, rather than the female which cares for the young.

Other interesting waders during October included several sightings of little stint, with three on the Beach Reserve on the 16th, regular spotted redshank on the Beach Reserve and Harbour Farm, two jack snipe on Harbour Farm on the 12th and 29 ruff at Castle Water on the 25th. Raptor highlight during October was an osprey over the Beach Reserve on the 1st, while there were several sightings of merlin during the month. Decent numbers of hirundines early in the month included 60 swallow and 22 house martin on the 11th, while up to 45 siskin were seen in flight over the shore and small numbers of wheatear were present throughout. This month also saw the first small flocks of winter thrushes, with 10 redwing at Castle Water on the 11th and similar numbers of fieldfare here on the 13th. Also at Castle Water up to 15 bearded tit were present in the reedbeds, while on Harbour Farm finch flocks included up to 120 linnet and 70 goldfinch. October also saw the first sightings of bittern for the autumn with singletons at Narrow Pit on the 27th and Castle Water on the 30th.

Catches in the Lime Kiln moth trap during October contained a good selection of autumn fare, with the bulk of the catch consisting of setaceous Hebrew character and lunar underwing. The highlights were several feathered brindle and the odd feathered ranunculus, while migrants included dark sword-grass, rush veneer and angle-shades. Also of interest was a tawny pinion found at Lime Kiln Cottage on the 29th, only the third reserve record and the first since 1998. Insect highlight during October was a red-veined darter on Harbour Farm on the 15th, while two western conifer seed bug (above) at Lime Kiln Cottage on the 15th and 28th were also notable. Also of note a young common toad was found at Lime Kiln Cottage on the 20th.