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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).


From the Clifftop

Clifftop birding is firmly in the grip of the "Summer Doldrums ", with just the odd Crossbill and Siskin heard since my last post. A few Swifts tricking east most days though.

The moth trap continues to struggle with low night temperatures-fleece required when checking it early in the morning, but a few additions to the year list. Showiest was Eyed Hawk, here pictured with the much commoner Poplar Hawk; Cloud-bordered Brindle was the best otherwise.

A few Painted Ladies  have  visited our garden


From the Clifftop

The last three nights moth trapping  have been disappointing , with nothing new for the year-too cold !

However a walk along the cliffs to the Visitor Centre and Quarry yesterday  [to check out the route of the Friends of HCPNR's Herbal Walk on Saturday] was interesting:

The red stems of parasitic Dodder were conspicuous at the east end of the Firehills, sprawling over the low vegetation-a welcome  result of the clearance of dominant gorse in recent years. Further along, pale fruits on the cliff-edge blackthorn were conspicuous, an internet search revealed that these are the Pocket Plum Gall:   "Taphrina pruni which is is a fungal plant pathogen that gives rise to the Pocket or Bladder Plum gall, which is a chemically induced distortion that causes fruit to swell on one side, or become otherwise deformed and flattened forming a rather bean like pod. Affected fruits have no stone."

A Siskin flew E while we looked at these, as did a House Martin and 2 Swallows. No Swifts, but signs that these are arriving now; as well as those Chris reports below, there were c100 at Dungeness the day before which looked as though they had just come in.

At the top of Warren Glen we watched one of the newly arrived Heavy Horses dragging a roller through quite tall bracken in order to weaken it as part of the ongoing programme to restore grassland here.


Rye Harbour

Bird highlight over the last few days was undoubtedly turtle dove calling near the viewpoint, the first time I have heard a bird on the reserve for a few years now (when I started in 2001 you could virtually guarantee them in at least three places). Same place, same time there was also a brief burst of nightingale song. Other interesting sightings (and all seen today) have been spoonbill on Harbour Farm (though it has been seen several times on Flat Beach in the morning), male red-breasted merganser at Castle Water and little gull on Harbour Farm on the pits behind Ternery Pool. Also today from the Castle Water hide there was an impressive display of swifts, with at least 100 in the air, along with 200+ house martin