These days, little egret (below) is a familiar sight on the reserve, particularly feeding in the channels on the new saltmarsh or wading on Flat Beach, and in recent years up to 100 of these white herons have been counted roosting at Castle Water. This was not always the case however. The first sightings in Britain were not until the 1950s, and at Rye Harbour not until 1986, and even up until 25 years ago, the presence of a little egret in Britain would have been guaranteed to attract excited ‘twitchers’. Little egret is a widespread and common breeder through out the northern hemisphere, but up until the first half of the 20th century, the closest birds to Britain were found in southern Europe and North Africa. Since then, however, breeding populations have spread north, and the first nesting in Britain occurring in Dorset in 1996 and in Sussex in 2001. The species has bred at sites quite close to the reserve, and hopefully will decide to set up home here in the future.
Wader highlights during September were two little stint on Flat Beach Level on the 13th and 19th and regular sightings of curlew sandpiper, with four here on several dates. Apart from this, the reserve played host to the usual fare of autumn passage waders, including species such as knot, little ringed plover, greenshank, common and green sandpiper, whimbrel and grey plover, with the largest numbers provided by oystercatcher, golden plover, curlew and lapwing. Notable waterfowl sightings during the month included a roost of 34 little egret on Narrow Pit on the 30th and six pintail on Flat Beach Level on the 18th. A good range of raptors during the month included marsh harrier, merlin, hobby and peregrine, with the best of the bunch an osprey over the Beach Reserve on the 4th. Still good numbers of hirundines moving through during September, a large passage on 6th including an estimated 5000 swallow, 600 house martin and 200 sand martin. There were also large numbers of meadow pipit and yellow wagtail during the month, with 580 of the former on the Beach Reserve on the 20th and 300 of the latter here on the 1st, while 182 pied wagtail on the 29th was the largest ever count on the reserve. Other notable sightings included small groups of tree pipit at Castle Water on the 6th and 12th, regular wheatear and small numbers of whinchat and stonechat. Passerine highlights were two firecrest at Ternery Pool on the 16th, and a pied flycatcher at Castle Water on the 13th.
Still some interesting moths around in September, encouraged by the run of good weather. Highlights were the macros large thorn, oblique striped and white-point and the micro starry pearl, while probable migrants included rush veneer, European corn-borer, silver y and humming-bird hawk-moth (below). Numbers of both butterflies and dragonflies/damselflies dropped off considerably during September, though the former included both red admiral and painted lady and the latter large numbers of migrant hawker. Other notable invertebrates included both Roesel’s and grey bush-cricket and a couple of sightings of false widow spider at Lime Kiln Cottage. Also of interest, a water vole was seen at Castle Water on 13th. Plants in flower during September included yellow-horned poppy, sea aster, marsh mallow and viper’s bugloss.