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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


From the Clifftop

For the first time for several days, no new moths for the year in the trap this morning after a cool and windy night. The best over the last few days was a Dark Spectacle, only my second ever, yesterday. On May 25th we found tiny larvae of the Mullein moth on our only Great Mullein plant, By yesterday they had grown to a couple of inches long, and had almost completely demolished their foodplant.

I've been spending time "sky watching"-looking for Swifts and Hirundines over the clifftop. Yesterday I saw 4 Swifts heading east, my best total this year!. It was a bit chilly sitting outside seeing nothing this morning, so I tried a spot of seawatching. No Terns, no Gannets, but an unseasonal Guillemot flew east. Of course these don't nest in Sussex anymore, but I decided to look into their former status here as The Birds of Sussex says that Walpole-Bond [who wrote the 1938 B.O.S.] "knew of colonies at Beachy Head, Crowlink and Fairlight".

Indeed a reference to nesting at Fairlight  appears in his book, but a footnote to the name Fairlight says "on no consideration to be confused with the place of this name near Hastings ". In fact this means Fairlight Lighthouse at Beltout, and Walpole Bond was quoting from the diaries of a Rev. Dennis from the mid 19th Century.


Rye Harbour Moths

After a couple of weeks of on and off weather I actually managed to run my trap last night, catching around 30 species, mostly heart & dart, common wainscot and diamond-back moth. No major rarities, though I did get a shore wainscot which is nationally scarce, and dog's tooth and maple prominent neither of which I see that often. Linking to yesterdays bumble-bee post I also caught a queen brown-banded carder bee (below), I think the first time I have ever had one come to light!