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Little terns!

My first little tern of the year at Rye Harbour, with three birds on Flat Beach visible from the wader pool hide. Best of the rest were a few knot and grey plover, also on Flat Beach, a solitary golden plover moulting into breeding plumage in the fields behind Ternery Pool, common tern on Ternery Pool itself and the long-staying red-breasted merganser on Harbour Farm north of the Denny and Parkes hides. Also two swallow over Harbour Farm and a calling whimbrel on the Beach Reserve late afternoon.


Grey-backed mining bee

On 3rd April local photographer and bee enthusiast Peter Greenhalf found this grey-backed mining bee (Andrena vagaat Castle Water. This striking solitary bee has only been found recently in Britain at Dungeness in Kent and in Hampshire, and this is the first record for Rye Harbour and the first modern record for Sussex (though there is a pre-1950 record). Subsequent visits on the 6th and 7th found two or three more females (including individuals nest-building) and one or two males, so it looks like the colony has been here for a couple of years. The identification was confirmed with the help of bee expert Mike Edwards.

 Image: Peter Greenhalf



A Busy Mourning at Glyne Gap Cliffs

I don't think I've ever seen so many common mourning bees Melecta albifrons as on Sunday morning (2nd) at the hairy-footed flower bee Anthophora plumipes nesting aggregation at Glyne Gap cliffs. Usually you are lucky to see one or two at an Anthophora nesting aggregation. At Glyne Gap there seemed to be as many Melecta as Anthophora and were an impressive sight patrolling the cliffs.

Common mourning bee. (Ian Phillips)

This large black, white-spotted bee is a cleptoparasite of the hairy-footed flower bee and it was interesting to observe a lot of host/parasite behaviour. The mourning bees were continuously attacked by male Anthophora that were waiting for females to return to their nest burrows. Returning females had to deal with eager males as well as being stalked by mourning bees, which followed a females every move as it searched for its burrow.

Female hairy-footed flower bee. (Ian Phillips)

The Anthophora and Melecta were not the only large solitary bees on the wing, there were also many cliff mining bees Andrena thoracica active, a stunning red and black species that nests in large numbers at the site. The cliffs at Glyne Gap and Galley Hill are an impressive sight at the moment due to the thousands of solitary bees on the wing of many species. This is an excellent site for anyone starting to learn the identification of British bees.

On Sunday 9th we are organising an invertebrate survey of the adjacent Galley Hill cliffs mainly for spiders but all invertebrates will be recorded. Any interested naturalist is welcome to join us at the British Arachnological Society event on Sunday. Meet at the Galley Hill cliff-top car park at 10.30am.

Andy Phillips

Consultant Ecologist, Professional Entomologist, Arachnologist & Ornithologist.


Clifftop Moths

Spring bird passage has been very thin of late; nothing at sea,and  just the odd Siskin overhead and my first Willow Warbler yesterday.

I've been running the moth trap nightly, the nights are far too cold really, but I am still getting quite a lot of moths. Mostly the "usual suspects " -Hebrew Characters, lots of Common Quakers, a few Clouded Drabs, Early Greys and Red Chestnuts, but variety was provided by a Shoulder Stripe a couple of days ago, and this morning, after a very chilly night, Oak Beauty [pictured], an early Nut-tree Tussock, and a Grey Shoulder-knot.


Rye Harbour

Myself and Jim Barrett carried out the first of this years butterfly counts at Castle Water today. This time of the year can be very hit or miss for butterflies, but we had good numbers today, with the commonest species being peacock, followed by small tortoiseshell, small white and a speckled wood. On the way out a birder pointed us in the direction of a 1st winter little gull which was flying backwards and forwards over Castle Water (about 1.15ish), while on the way back we had marsh harrier, buzzard and peregrine. Finally, we stopped off at the northern end of Castle Water to have a look at some of the sandy areas for bees and their hangers-on, turning up sandpit mining bee, spring colletes (below) and both common and dotted bee-fly.