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A sting in the tail

I spent a fascinating couple of hours this afternoon watching solitary wasps and bees on the sandy path near the viewpoint. Probably the highlight was watching this solitary wasp Oxybelus uniglumis bringing prey back to her nest. This species stocks its nest with flies for its larvae to feed on, but rather than carry them in its jaws as some others do, this one impales them on its long sting as you can see here. This is to keep it safe from parasites, some of which will lay their eggs on unattended prey. After this 'infected' prey has been taken into the nest, the parasite hatches and eats the larder the wasp has set aside for its own young (and usually the wasps egg or larvae as well!). As an extra precaution, Oxybelus seals the nest every time it leaves and this individual was in the process of re-opening the entrance when I photographed it.


From the Clifftop

Not a great deal to report since my last entry ! The widely reported lack of Swifts and Hirundines seems to be easing slightly, nothing here but a few HM and Swifts in Winchelsea. Yesterday we drove up the coast to Walmer in Kent, on the return trip seeing no Swallows, no House Martins and just 3 Swifts when passing through Dungeness.

Moth trap catches continue to reflect cool and windy nights; last night was particularly poor, with just 9 species. However I did have what I suppose is my best moth this year so far  a few days ago, the appropriately named Obscure Wainscot. This is a reedbed/wetland species and unexpected on the Clifftop. Never seen one before, but I have to say it's a bit brown...


Rye Harbour

Bird highlights in the last few days have been two corn bunting on Harbour Farm near the barns, yellow wagtail, also on Harbour Farm, male garganey at Castle Water and the immature spoonbill on Flat Beach. Other interesting sightings have included greenshank, whimbrel, knot, little ringed plover and grey partridge, while over 100 swift were over the pits at Castle Water on the 12th and the long-staying red-breasted merganser was still on Harbour Farm. On Flat Beach both avocet and oystercatcher produced their first chicks of the year, with several broods present by the end of the week, while the first common tern chicks hatched around the 8th and the first  fledged wheatear were seen on the Beach Reserve around the same date.




From the Clifftop and Rye Harbour

A good catch by this year's standards in my Fairlight garden moth trap yesterday morning, 28 species with a number new for the year [NFY] including Elephant Hawk at last, and a new tortrix for me anywhere, Phtheochroa inopiana- but still no sign of the usually abundant Double-striped Pug. A brief seawatch produced 150 Sandwich Terns moving west or stopping to fish below the clifftop, and a dozen Common Scoters going east.

Later, I went with a friend, Mike, who now lives in Australia to show off Rye Harbour, walking from Dog's Hill Road . We were immediately struck by the huge number of what I would call Flea Beetles attracted to Sea Poppy and other yellow flowers, mostly at the Winchelsea Beach end. Never seen so many. Birdwise, highlights were the long-staying Spoonbill, asleep amongst gulls on Flat Beach, and a singing Corn Bunting just inland of the Lifeboat Station. As usual the Terns and Med. Gulls gave a great display, with about 30 of the latter resting and bathing at Castle Water.

Nice to bump into new warden Dave King at the Bittern viewpoint, Dave worked with me at Northward Hill RSPB decades ago [as did Mike more recently] when that reserve, now a significant wetland, was just the original heronry-welcome Dave !

This morning being cool and windy there were far fewer moths in the trap, just 11 species, but Mullein Wave and Bird's Wing were NFY .


Rye Harbour Moths

As the season moves on I'm starting to get a few more species in the Lime Kiln moth trap. Newbies for the year this morning included elephant hawk, the snout, light arches and eyed hawk-moth (four of these constituting a pretty good nights catch here). I also had a little bunch of migrant/occasional residents: white-point, l-album wainscot and five-spotted ermel (below). When I first started at Rye Harbour (14 years ago if you can believe it!) l-album wainscot was quite regular, suggesting a breeding population, but in the last few years it has been much less common. Similarly five-spot ermel was quite regular from the late 90's until 2002 and then was not seen here again until 2016, with regular catches in the moth trap and even larvae turning up at Watch Cottage! This year again there have been several at Lime Kiln and a mating pair were photographed on viper's bugloss (the larval foodplant) at Watch Cottage (see here).