Bird highlight this month was a White-tailed Eagle which was present over the Beach Reserve on the 19th. This species used to be found throughout the UK, but persecution led to their extinction in England in the late 18th century and Scotland in the early 20th. Birds were reintroduced to the Isle of Rhum from Norway in the 1970s and have since spread to other parts of Scotland, while an ongoing project (the origin of the Rye Harbour bird) will eventually see around 60 chicks collected from the Scottish population released on the Isle of Wight (the last place in England where they nested). The released birds have been radio-tagged and have wandered far, including Norfolk, North Yorkshire and even Germany.
It was a very poor showing for our breeding seabirds this month, with very few birds in the Black-headed Gull colony and, after a promising start, relatively few Sandwich Tern. There were, however, Small numbers of Common Tern from the 7th and Little Tern from the 19th and several flocks of Mediterranean Gull (though none appeared to be showing interest in their traditional nesting sites). Similarly, while all of our breeding waders appear to be in place, both Avocet and Lapwing were present in low numbers, with perhaps 25 pairs of the former and only six of the latter. Waterfowl this month included a mixture of the odd winter hangover, such as the White-fronted Goose which was present around the reserve between the 5th and 22nd and a few Goldeneye early in the month, an obvious passage bird in the shape of the long-staying Black-necked Grebe at Castle Water, and summer visitors such as Garganey, with up at least three different bird reported this month. In addition to the White-tailed Eagle, raptors included regular Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Peregrine, with Merlin on the Beach Reserve on the 3rd and the first Hobby of the year on the 25th at Castle Water and Long Pit.
Owls included regular Barn Owl and a Short-eared Owl on the Beach Reserve on the 10th and Castle Water on the 15th. This month saw the first records for many of our summer warblers, including Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, while good numbers of hirundines were present early in the month and the first Swift were seen on the 23rd. In addition, the first Yellow Wagtail was seen on the 1st, while the first Cuckoo was heard on the 14th. Highlights were a Ring Ouzel briefly on Flat Beach Level on the 13th and a singing Nightingale on Narrow Pit on the 25th and 27th, while Firecrest were recorded on the 1st and 3rd.
See our blog Spring Bird Arrivals in Rye Bay by clicking here
Yellow-shouldered Nomad Bee
Cold weather during March meant that moth trap numbers were well below average, with a total of three individuals of two species caught all month! However, one of these was a male Brindled Beauty, a species last seen here in 2011 and before that 1995, and by-catch also included a female Minotaur Beetle on the 26th. In contrast, the bee colonies in the sheltered areas at the northern end of Castle Water were very active, with Spring Colletes, Clarke’s Mining Bee, Small Sallow Mining Bee, Painted Nomad and Marsham’s Nomad among others being recorded. This area also turned up the very rare Yellow-shouldered Nomad Bee on the 19th, only the third reserve record. Plants in flower included Blackthorn, Sallow, Ground-ivy, Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Common Stork’sbill, Dove's-foot Crane's-bill and Brackish Water-crowfoot.
This post is also available on Sussex Wildlife Trust website